- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Washington Capitals followed up a road win against the Eastern Conference-leading Ottawa Senators in early November with a five-game losing streak that cost their coach his job.

After defeating the Senators in Ottawa on Saturday night, a repeat letdown appeared plausible when Washington yielded two quick goals yesterday. But the Caps regrouped and proceeded to reel off five consecutive tallies in a 6-3 win against those same Senators in front of 14,547 at Verizon Center.

“I think we are a different hockey team than we were, say, six weeks or a month ago,” goaltender Olie Kolzig said. “We’re confident. We’re scoring goals. We’re winning a lot more than we are losing, and I think we are starting to believe we are a good hockey team.”

The Caps came back from the holiday break losers of three in a row and facing a dangerous six-game stretch. Four contests in Washington is 3-0-1, and the Caps knocked off the top team in the conference twice in less than 72 hours by a combined 14-9 score.

Ottawa was 9-1-1 in its previous 11 games before Saturday, and the Senators are now 25-7-4 against the rest of the NHL and 0-3 in meetings with the Caps.

“Sometimes throughout the league there are some teams you just play well against,” defenseman Mike Green said. “I think we got to give ourselves credit to beat this team two games in a row. They are a very good hockey club, and the stats show it.”

At Scotiabank Place, the Caps’ top players provided all the offense in an 8-6 shootout, including four goals from Alex Ovechkin. While Green, a budding star on the blue line, had two goals and an assist for the Caps yesterday, the team found offense from other sources.

Viktor Kozlov ignited the rally with his first goal since that first meeting in Ottawa on Nov. 8, a span of 23 games. Rookie Nicklas Backstrom corralled the puck near the boards, spun and fired a pass to Kozlov, who potted his fourth of the season — and only his second in the past 37 games.

The goal came 29 seconds after Ottawa grinder Dean McAmmond had split two Washington defenders and given the Senators a 2-0 advantage.

“I said a few things, and my face got a little redder as it went I think,” said Caps coach Bruce Boudreau, who is now 10-5-4. “I think the Kozlov goal gave us such a lift because everyone wanted him to score so badly.”

It was the first of three goals in a span of 2:19 to put the Caps in front. Michael Nylander notched his 10th of the season on a rebound, and Green scored a 4-on-4 goal 35 seconds later that chased Senators starting goaltender Martin Gerber.

Brooks Laich made it 4-2 with 4:15 remaining in the period. There was a tangled mess of bodies in front of goalie Ray Emery. After Boyd Gordon had two attempts and Donald Brashear took a whack at it, Laich’s first chance was blocked, but he lifted a backhanded shot from his knees for his seventh of the year.

Green made it a three-goal advantage 52 seconds into the second period with the team’s first 5-on-3 tally of the season. He buried a cross-ice pass from Nylander for his 10th of the year, which ties him with Montreal’s Andrei Markov for most among NHL defensemen. Washington had been unsuccessful in its first 10 two-man advantages this season.

From there the Caps limited the Senators chances for a comeback. Despite being without minutes leader Tom Poti and Alexander Semin, the short-handed Caps yielded only a goal to Andrej Meszaros 1:10 into the final period.

Gordon ended the suspense with an empty-netter, his fourth of the year, with 1:51 to play.

Semin left the game midway through the first period with a tailbone injury, and Poti exited eight minutes into the second with an upper body problem. Both players are classified as day-to-day, and without them Boudreau had to do some juggling with only 11 forwards and five defensemen.

“Oh yeah [it was tough],” Boudreau said, “It was a little eenie-meanie at times. I’d like to say, ‘No, I was in full control,’ but I needed a little help from my coaches.”

Caps report

Yesterday at Verizon Center

QUOTABLE

“Our whole staff, we’re the most boring staff in hockey. We were all in bed by 10. It was ridiculous. I didn’t make it [to midnight]. Not anymore — when I played I made it well past midnight.”

— Caps coach Bruce Boudreau on New Year’s Eve

BY THE NUMBERS

289 Wins for Caps netminder Olie Kolzig, which ties him for 25th in league history with Hall of Fame r Ed Giacomin.

19 Points for Washington since Dec. 1 (8-3-3), third most in the Eastern Conference in that stretch.

10 Goals this season for Mike Green, which ties him with Montreal’s Andrei Markov for tops in the NHL among defensemen.

Corey Masisak

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