- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 24, 2009

OTTAWA | For all of their strengths, blowing leads in the third period has been an unseemly flaw for the Washington Capitals this season. That said, this one might rank as one of the worst.

The Ottawa Senators, badly outplayed for 40 minutes, outshot the Caps 22-3 in the third period and overtime and rallied from a two-goal deficit Monday night to defeat Washington 4-3 at ScotiaBank Place.

“This was a collapse by 20 guys, and I don’t know how else to sugarcoat it,” Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We had total control of the game after two [periods]. They didn’t even want to be part of the game - it looked like they wanted to go home. Something lit a fire under them, and we couldn’t match it.”

Mike Fisher knocked the puck out of midair in front of the net 1:14 into overtime to send the Caps to their third straight defeat and fourth in five contests. It was the Senators’ third goal on a deflection of the game, which played a large part in spoiling another strong effort by Semyon Varlamov. The rookie netminder stopped 33 shots, including three in the first 56 seconds of overtime, as several mistakes led to great opportunities for the Senators.

Washington carried a two-goal lead into the third period, but Ottawa erased it with two goals less than five minutes apart. Chris Neil deflected a slap shot from Filip Kuba past Varlamov 3:18 into the period, and Alexandre Picard’s shot on the power play from the right point squeezed through a screen at 7:40.

Washington was missing seven skaters from the opening-night lineup for the second consecutive game, and the Caps were playing for the fourth time in six nights, but Boudreau was not in a mood for excuses.

“We’re not giving any other reasons other than Ottawa came and outworked us in the third period,” Boudreau said. “They wanted it more. We take three dumb penalties, and they get the momentum and they get the crowd into it, and we leave our poor goalie out to dry.”

The Caps took those three penalties in the final period after not committing any in the first 20 minutes. Alex Ovechkin’s penalty was a bad call - and it led to Picard’s goal - but Boudreau said the other two were warranted.

“I don’t think we intended to come out lightly, but maybe we did,” Chris Clark said. “Some teams will look at that positive as getting a point, but not when you have the game in hand with a two-goal lead going in the third period. It is not something we are going to build.”

After the Caps fell behind in the first period, Clark got them even at 11:19. Playing on the top line with Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, Clark directed a beautiful slap pass from Brian Pothier past Ottawa goaltender Brian Elliott with his left skate. The play was reviewed, but the goal - Clark’s second of the season - was allowed to stand.

The Caps had not scored in the past two games on the power play, and they didn’t technically score on their first extra-man opportunity of this contest, but Brendan Morrison netted his eighth of the season less than two seconds after Chris Kelly was released from the penalty box.

Tomas Fleischmann was able to knock the puck from a collision of bodies toward the right circle, where Mike Green swooped in and connected with Morrison on a perfect pass at the left goal post for an easy layup with 30 seconds remaining in the opening period.

Jay Beagle’s first NHL tally gave the Caps a two-goal lead in the second period. Beagle knocked down a backhanded clearing attempt by Jonathan Cheechoo with his body near the inside of the left faceoff circle and then snapped a shot past Elliott at 11:44.

David Steckel went and fetched the momentous puck out of the Ottawa net for Beagle, who also received a congratulatory embrace from Ovechkin at the bench. Beagle was an undrafted free agent who first signed an American Hockey League contract with Hershey before his play convinced the Caps to give him an NHL deal.

“This is a dream come true to be in this organization and have this opportunity,” Beagle said. “Just work hard and things are happening for me. It is just awesome.”

Peter Regin gave the Senators a brief lead in the first period when he tipped Jesse Winchester’s shot from the right point past Varlamov at 7:27 of the first. It was one of only a few scoring chances in the first 40 minutes for Ottawa, but the Senators took control in the final period.

“They were able to slowly grind us down,” Pothier said. “We knew they were going to push. They are a good team, and we knew they were going to respond. They did, and we didn’t push back.”

• Corey Masisak can be reached at cmasisak@washingtontimes.com.

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