- The Washington Times - Monday, March 17, 2008

Cristobal Huet, like his new team, has had his share of struggles in the shootout.

But in a game the Washington Capitals wanted desperately, Huet made 39 saves to help his team reach the one-on-one tiebreaker yesterday and made the stop he needed in the shootout as the Caps prevailed 2-1 against the Boston Bruins at a sold-out Verizon Center.

“I didn’t start the year very good in shootouts, but the last two or three have been working for me,” Huet said. “It is good that we have some good players who can put the puck in the net.”

Alexander Semin and Viktor Kozlov scored in the shootout for the Caps, who kept pace with division-leading Carolina and inched closer to Philadelphia for eighth-place in the Eastern Conference. The team’s third straight win, combined with the Flyers’ 7-1 loss to Pittsburgh, has Washington within two points of Philadelphia for the final postseason berth with nine games to play.

Semin opened the shootout by coming to a complete stop in front of Boston goalie Alex Auld and surprised him with a wrist shot over his left shoulder from close range. Huet stopped Boston’s Chuck Kobasew, and Phil Kessel missed the net, which set the stage for Kozlov to clinch it. Kozlov beat Auld between the legs with a quick wrist shot, and his teammates spilled onto the ice to celebrate a much-needed victory.

It wouldn’t have been possible without Huet. After the Caps limited the Bruins to five shots and one scoring chance in the first period, Boston fired shots at Huet from all over the ice in the final 45 minutes.

Huet lost his first three shootouts of the season with Montreal but won two in a row before joining the Caps and improved to .500 yesterday. He also has allowed only four even-strength goals in five starts for Washington.

“He came up huge for us with a few saves in overtime and the shootout,” Caps center Sergei Fedorov said. “He was outstanding.”

Fedorov put the Caps in front near the end of a disjointed opening period. The Caps had a 5-on-3 power play, and Fedorov put a slap shot from the top of the right faceoff circle through a screen for his first goal in a Washington uniform.

While the Caps only allowed five shots in the period, they didn’t generate much offense either. As the game moved forward, the flow improved, but the Bruins frustrated Washington with their defensive-minded approach.

“They play kind of a boring game,” defenseman Tom Poti said. “They stacked four guys at the far blue line and just kind of waited for us.”

Boston tied the score 1-1 midway through the second period when Kobasew put a shot from the inside edge of the right faceoff circle past Huet for a power-play goal. It was an odd-man rush in part because Kobasew had tripped up Caps forward Brooks Laich near the far blue line without a whistle.

Caps defenseman Milan Jurcina was in the penalty box serving a four-minute sentence for high-sticking. It was the second of back-to-back penalties Jurcina was called for just 15 seconds of ice time apart.

Mike Green, who has three overtime goals this season, had a great opportunity in the extra session, but Auld got a piece of his shot. For the most part though, chances were few and far between in the final minutes of the third period and overtime.

“I thought at the end of the game we were pensive,” Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Sometimes you’ve got a young team, and they know so much is on the line, and when you get out there you’re afraid to make a mistake.

“The main thing is we got the two [points]. If we keep going two at a time, eventually it’s going to work in our favor.”

Caps report

Yesterday at Verizon Center

BY THE NUMBERS

214 Games played in the NHL before Caps forward Brooks Laich had a two-goal game. With two scores against the Thrashers on Friday, he has three multigoal games in his past nine.

1,000 NHL games for Boston right wing Glen Murray.

OVECHKIN WATCH

Even without nemesis Zdeno Chara in the lineup, Alex Ovechkin’s eight-game point streak came to an end, leaving him still one point shy of 100. He had 17 points (nine goals) during the streak. Ovechkin still leads the scoring race, but Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin cut the margin to two points yesterday with two goals and two assists against Philadelphia.

Corey Masisak

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