- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 24, 2008

RALEIGH, N.C. — After one goal, Boyd Gordon lay motionless on his stomach for several seconds. Moments later goaltender Olie Kolzig splintered his stick with an overhand whack at the crossbar and subsequent mash on the ice for good measure.

In a game the Washington Capitals needed badly, their frustration began to boil over.

Washington stayed with surging Carolina for a little more than half of yesterday’s critical Southeast Division game, but the Hurricanes’ offensive onslaught proved too much in a 6-3 loss at RBC Center.

“You can’t just do it for 20 minutes and then when you face a little bit of adversity, start getting down and looking for excuses, whether it be yelling at the refs or right or wrong and we did,” Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Instead of pushing back, we felt bad for ourselves. We felt we were getting shortchanged for whatever reason, and when that happens you’re not going to be successful.”

With the loss, the Caps fell six points behind the division-leading Hurricanes, though the team does have three games in hand. One of those is this afternoon at Verizon Center against the New Jersey Devils, the top team in the Atlantic Division.

Carolina peppered Kolzig with 42 shots, a touch off their pace from the previous two games but enough to have more than 40 in three straight games for the first time since 1987, when the franchise was in Hartford, Conn.

The Caps entered the game perfect in their past 22 penalty-killing situations, while the Hurricanes had not scored with the extra man in 17 tries. Both of those trends ended emphatically. Carolina scored four power-play goals, the most Washington has allowed all season.

Matt Cullen scored the first two, both were helped by a pair of untimely breaks. Tom Poti’s stick snapped before Cullen’s first score (Poti was furious that a slash was not called and had to be restrained by an official after the goal) and Milan Jurcina’s busted shortly before the second one.

“It was tough enough to beat the Hurricanes, but we had to beat the refs tonight to and we couldn’t do that,” Poti said. “We came out in the first period with a lot of emotion, but it we took too many penalties and it killed us.”

The last three extra-man goals were emblematic of another seismic problem last night for the Caps — they all came on rebounds.

In fact, each of the final five Carolina goals came after Kolzig made the first save.

“We were soft in front of our net all night long,” Boudreau said. “They had second and third and fourth chances. … Those pucks should have been cleared. That’s the reason Olie was mad.”

Alex Ovechkin did not snap his season-long goal drought, which is now at four games. But he did assist on all three of Washington’s goals and moved to within one point of Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin for the NHL scoring lead.

Mike Green put the Caps on the board first. Ovechkin and Green criss-crossed during a rush and Ovechkin — the NHL’s leader in shots — elected to feed the puck to Green, who slipped a backhanded shot between Carolina goaltender Cam Ward’s legs for his 16th of the season.

After Cullen’s first goal, Alexander Semin gave Washington the lead back less than three minutes later. When Eric Staal laid an open-ice hit on Ovechkin during a power play, it left Semin an opening to skate into and his shot hit a stick on the way in.

Cullen and Erik Cole put Carolina in front for the first time, but Brooks Laich tied the score at three 8:37 into the second period.

From that point, save for a couple of missed opportunities around Carolina’s net, it was all Hurricanes.

Staal scored his 30th of the season late in the second period. Kolzig denied Tim Conboy’s shot from the right point but couldn’t locate the loose puck. Defenseman John Erskine tried to clear it but whiffed, and Staal swooped in to whack it in the net.

“There was a lot of traffic in front of the net tonight, and [we] had a tough time finding the puck,” Kolzig said. “It just seemed like they took advantage of every rebound.”

While the Caps had yielded third-period leads in the previous three games, the Hurricanes would offer no such help. Andrew Ladd and Joe Corvo added goals in the final period as Carolina kept firing shots on Kolzig.

“We’ve got to park it,” Laich said. “We’ve got a huge game tomorrow. Obviously it is a tough loss, but we’ve got to get emotionally charged up because tomorrow is another big day.”

Caps report

Last night at RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C.

SEEN AND HEARD

There were about 200 Caps fans in attendance last night. Two groups — the Caps Road Crew and the Caps Fan Club — bused to the game and tailgated in the parking lot beforehand. “Horn Guy” and “Goat,” the team’s most well-known fans for their Verizon Center antics, were part of the road crew and chants of “Let’s Go, Caps” echoed through the RBC Center during warm-ups.

BY THE NUMBERS

41Consecutive games with Bruce Boudreau as coach without back-to-back regulation losses — the only team in the NHL with at least a 40-game streak.

336Shots on goal this season for Alex Ovechkin after eight last night — the total is the third-highest in team history moving him past Peter Bondra’s 333 in 2000-01 (Ovechkin’s first two seasons are Nos. 1 and 2 on the list).

Corey Masisak

Today’s game

NEW JERSEY DEVILS AT WASHINGTON CAPITALS

When: 3 p.m.

Where: Verizon Center

TV/radio: CSN, AM-1500, FM-107.7

Goalies: Devils — Martin Brodeur (33-19-4) or Kevin Weekes (2-2-1). Capitals — Brent Johnson (7-8-1) or Olie Kolzig (21-19-6).

Injuries: Devils — Out: D Colin White (upper body), RW Cam Jannsen (right shoulder). Capitals — Out: C Michael Nylander (torn rotator cuff), RW Chris Clark (groin), D Brian Pothier (concussion), D Jeff Schultz (knee strain).


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