- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 21, 2009

OTTAWA | Jose Theodore did what he could to preserve a game his teammates were trying to give away with blunder after blunder, but there was one bad bounce too many.

Brendan Bell scored Ottawa’s third quirky power-play goal of the night with 1:22 remaining in the final period, and the Senators defeated the Caps 3-2 at a sold-out Scotiabank Place on Tuesday.

“Listen, we would have lost long ago if it wasn’t for [Theodore],” Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I’m not blaming him. I’m blaming the selfish play and the lazy play on our part.”

Bell’s first attempt was blocked by rookie defenseman Karl Alzner, but the puck came right back to Bell, and he put it past Theodore, who had gone down to stop the first attempt. The power play was set up by a senseless tripping penalty on Alexander Semin, who took a big swing at Daniel Alfredsson in the neutral zone after he had intercepted Semin’s pass.

“You just don’t make dumb mistakes like that,” Boudreau said. “It just goes without saying.”

Washington’s penalty killing has been one of the few problems in a successful first half of the season, and Dany Heatley struck twice with the extra man for Ottawa in the opening period.

Antoine Vermette set up the first one with a pair of pretty passes. The second was to Filip Kuba, who sent a slap-pass to Heatley for a one-timer at 8:11. Theodore immediately complained to an official that Nick Foligno had interfered on the play, but defenseman John Erskine had checked the Senators forward into his netminder.

Heatley’s second of the period came with Sergei Fedorov in the penalty box at 15:54. Heatley sent the puck toward the net, and it glanced off Washington defenseman Jeff Schultz’s skate and inside the far post. The puck might have gone out of play seconds before the goal. After a shot rang off the post and bounced up in the air, Vermette put his stick in the air - a signal that the puck had hit the protective netting above the glass and should have warranted a faceoff.

“If [the penalty killing] doesn’t get better, we’re not going anywhere,” Boudreau said. “Guys are going to start losing their penalty-killing jobs if they don’t start getting with the program.”

Added defenseman Mike Green: “We’ve got to be better on the [penalty kill], bottom line. I don’t know what the stats are, but when we give no [power-play] goals or at least just one, we win the game. Until we can figure out how to battle… then I don’t know.”

Following the rough start, the Caps leveled the score at 2-2 in the middle period. Fedorov atoned for his earlier mistake, scoring his fifth goal of the season 37 seconds into the period. Seconds after an official review concluded that he hadn’t scored on a sharp angle shot, Fedorov one-timed a pass from Alexander Semin from the top of the offensive zone into the net.

David Steckel made it a 2-2 game midway through the second. After Chris Clark kept the puck in the zone, Steckel sent a pass from the right corner to Tomas Fleischmann, who was cutting to the net. Fleischmann slipped the puck back to Steckel at the right goal post, and he backhanded it past rookie goalie Brian Elliott while being knocked to the ground for his sixth tally of the year.

The Caps had a great chance to take a lead into the second intermission but could not convert on any of their four power plays, including a two-man advantage late in the period.

“We didn’t come to play in the first and third periods,” Boudreau said. “If you don’t come to play in two of the three periods, you’re not going to win hockey games.”

Notes - Caps center Michael Nylander was a healthy scratch for the third time this season. Nylander, who is in the second year of a four-year, $19.5 million contract, has four goals and 22 points in 45 games. He has only two goals and 14 assists in the past 41 contests. …

Steckel, who was a healthy scratch Monday against the Islanders, returned to the lineup in place of the 36-year-old Nylander. The Caps were also without defensemen Tom Poti (groin) and Shaone Morrisonn (lower body) and goaltender Brent Johnson (undisclosed). …

The Caps now begin a five-day break for All-Star weekend before practicing Monday afternoon in Boston.


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