- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 21, 2008

For the second time in as many games, the Washington Capitals let a two-goal lead evaporate in the final period. The Caps recovered to win Saturday in Tampa, Fla., but they were not so fortunate last night at Verizon Center.

Mike Comrie slipped a shootout attempt through Washington goaltender Olie Kolzig’s legs, and the short-handed New York Islanders sneaked out of the District with their fifth straight victory. Comrie faked a shot before switching to his backhand for the only goal in the one-on-one format, and Rick DiPietro made 28 saves to lead the Islanders to a 3-2 win.

“You hate giving points away, and I felt like we did that tonight,” Kolzig said.

Washington did gain one point to move within two of Carolina for first place in the Southeast Division, and the Caps travel to Raleigh, N.C., on Saturday. But the extra point allowed the Islanders to move within one of eighth place in the Eastern Conference and two ahead of the Caps.

While the Caps remain without three key veterans, injuries also have hit the Islanders hard. Four members of the team’s original defense corps (Brendan Witt, Andy Sutton, Chris Campoli and Bruno Gervais) were out of the lineup last night along with forwards Shawn Bates and Mike Sillinger.

Despite the injuries, the Islanders’ surge has moved them back into playoff contention, and DiPietro continued his run of success against the Caps. DiPietro is 9-3-0-1 in his career against Washington, and the Caps have not scored more than two goals against New York in the past nine matchups.

The Caps became similarly hamstrung on the back end when defenseman Jeff Schultz left the game in the first period with a knee strain. He came back for a four-second shift in the second period, but the Caps basically were left to rotate five defensemen for the final 55 minutes of the contest.

“I thought it was a game that we had, but then it seemed like we didn’t have a ton of energy,” Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I think the outcome was probably what we deserved.”

Alexander Semin put the Caps on the board 2:17 into the opening period. Defenseman Tom Poti blocked a shot from the left point by Bryan Berard, and the puck skipped to Matt Pettinger in the middle of the Caps’ defensive zone.

Pettinger shuttled a pass to Semin, who had slipped ahead of everyone and put a backhanded flip past DiPietro. Brooks Laich made it 2-0 with a power-play goal at 13:37 when he redirected a shot from Mike Green (who logged a career-high 33:59 of ice time) on the power play for his 10th of the year.

But instead of burying the Islanders, the Caps eased up a bit, and New York took advantage.

“I think it is a lack of killer instinct,” Laich said. “When we do have a lead, the old cliche is [to] step on their throats. We sometimes just get out of our game.”

Islanders forward Miroslav Satan cut the lead in half midway through the second period. Seconds after Bill Guerin left the penalty box, he had a one-on-one opportunity against Poti in part because Alex Ovechkin — who remained on the ice for the entire power play — had tried to head for the bench.

Kolzig turned aside Guerin’s attempt, but the Islanders’ captain regained control of the puck near the left corner and send a pass back in front to Satan, who had an open net to aim for before Ovechkin could get back to help.

“I think Alex was on too long, and when he went to change he saw the guy breaking, so he stopped and he went back,” Boudreau said. “I was waving him to the bench because he was out of the play anyway. When you make that indecision, it usually ends up a bad decision.”

Josef Vasicek knotted the score 2-2 at 11:09 of the final period. He retrieved the puck in the right corner on a dump-in and flung it toward the net, and it careened off Kolzig’s hip and into the net.

Ovechkin had several prime opportunities but put shots off the post four times, including his shootout attempt. This is the first time the NHL’s goal-scoring leader has been held without a goal in three straight games this season.

“Yeah, career high [in posts],” Ovechkin said. “It was not our day.”

Note — Defenseman Sami Lepisto and right wing Eric Fehr were assigned to Hershey of the American Hockey League before the game, but Lepisto may be back after Schultz’s injury.

Caps report

Last night at Verizon Center

QUOTABLE

“I was a little sour.”

— Caps coach Bruce Boudreau on watching Boston blow a 2-0 lead in the final 90 seconds Tuesday night against Carolina

BY THE NUMBERS

1.99 Career goals-against average in 15 games against the Caps for Islanders goaltender Rick Dipietro.

— Corey Masisak


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