- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 17, 2007

It has been a busy March for Alexandre Giroux and a long three weeks for the Washington Capitals.

Giroux, who was recalled from Hershey of the American Hockey League for the third time this month, scored his first NHL goal 1:46 into the first period last night and, along with a big night from Alexander Semin, helped the Caps snap a nine-game losing streak with a 5-1 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Verizon Center. The win is Washington’s first since defeating New Jersey 4-2 on Feb. 24.

“It wasn’t like we were being totally dominated every night,” Caps goaltender Olie Kolzig, who stopped 34 of 35 shots, said. “It was just little things. Like last night — we had a 3-0 lead and normally those games should be put away. Those are things we need to learn for next year if we want to take the next step.”

Giroux has a team-high 38 goals this season for Hershey, but his first NHL tally came in part because of a quirky bounce. Washington defenseman Steve Eminger dumped the puck into the left corner, but it caromed toward Toronto goaltender Andrew Raycroft.

The Maple Leafs’ netminder turned his back to the rest of the players and tried to swipe the puck around the boards with his stick, but he whiffed and it bounced out into the crease. Giroux took advantage of the misplay and put the Caps in front when he backhanded it into the net.

“It was just a lucky goal,” Giroux said. “Anyone could have that goal. It’s funny that I got that one, but obviously a little pressure is off my shoulders now. Maybe it was an ugly one, but I will take it.”

Semin stopped his six-game goalless drought and recorded his first three-point night since Jan. 27 against Carolina. He gave the Caps a 2-0 lead with some nifty stick work. Semin stole the puck near center ice and, after collecting it again below the goal line to the left of Raycroft, stickhandled past Toronto defenseman Hal Gill. Semin’s first backhand attempt was turned back, but he flipped the rebound over a prone Raycroft 7:55 into the period for his 34th of the season.

“Olie was Olie and our top players were our top players,” Caps coach Glen Hanlon said. “We had some highlight-reel plays from Semin and [Alex] Ovechkin. Olie was great. It was a great night.”

Boyd Gordon scored a second period goal for the Caps, and Kris Beech and Tomas Fleischmann added third period goals for Washington.

While the Caps had collected three points during the losing skid via shootout losses, the mood afterward certainly was better than it had been in the past 20 days.

“It was great,” Caps captain Chris Clark said. “It is not a huge celebration, but it is kind of a relief thing. Maybe we can get on a little winning streak and finish up the last 10 games that way.”

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