Most of the Washington Capitals didn't hear about their captain being traded away until they reached Verizon Center for Monday night's game against the last-place Carolina Hurricanes. 

Once they took the ice, they played exactly like a team that had their heart ripped out, as they played sloppy, mistake-filled hockey for much of the first half of the game.  Carolina (10-22-7) scored the first three goals of the game en route to a convincing 6-3 win over the current NHL points leader.

Eric Staal had two goals and three assists to lead the worst team in the league to just their second road win of the season -- their tenth overall.

The Capitals traded captain Chris Clark and defenseman Milan Jurcina to Columbus in exchange for forward Jason Chimera.

The move surprised not just those left behind, but Clark himself.  "I'm shocked," Clark told the Washington Post. "But then you start looking to the team where you're going. So now I'm trying to put all my energy into who's on the team, how they're doing and where I'll be playing my next game."

Washington (24-9-6) played terribly flat early, and managed only four shots on goal in the first period.  Additionally, Nicklas Backstrom took a four minute high-stick, followed by Mike Green's hooking call, which resulted in a five-on-three for Carolina.

The Caps, including Karl Alzner, played tremendously trying to kill the 5-on-3, but seconds before it would expire, Tuomo Ruutu banged home a rebound of a Stall shot to break the ice.  Staal made it 2-0 less than three minutes later knocking a puck out of the air -- baseball style -- past a dazed Jose Theodore. 

Jussi Jokinen beat Theodore three minutes later, and the onslaught was on.

Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau did not want to use the trade as an excuse for the poor play, but it was was obvious the Caps were not on their game, after handling top-of-their division New Jersey and Buffalo their previous games.

"But I've been in that situation, and it can bother some people. I don't know if it did with our guys, even if it was a two great guys who were leaving."

"I don't know if [the trade] did or it didn't [bother the players], usually we're a lot better in the first period."

Goalie Theodore had a rough night.  In his first start since Dec. 18 he gave up five goals on 26 shots and several of the goals came on rebounds.  He made a couple of good saves in the opening minutes, but after the two early goals he looked like he lost focus, and ultimately control of the game.

"I thought he fought the puck a little bit at the end," Boudreau siad.  "Once the first two goals went by him, I thought his confidence [lacked]. But at no time was I thinking about pulling him."

This, after an episode at practice at the end of last week where Theodore broke a stick and said "I just work here" when responding to Michel Neuvirth receiving three straight starts.

The Caps got power play goals from Mike Green and Alex Ovechkin, and a fluky goal from Eric Fehr, where a Hurricane defensemen tried to play the puck with his hand and basically threw the puck past goalie Cam Ward (28 saves).

The loss is the first to a Southeast Division foe this season, putting the Caps' mark in the division at 8-1-0.
After the game, Washington loaded up to head out west, where they face San Jose on Wednesday night.  They expect newly acquired Chimera to accompany the team on the road trip.

Highlights from McPhee Press Conference on Trade, Captaincy

Posted by Dave Nichols | Monday, December 28, 2009 | , , , | 0 comments »

Bullet-point style!

On trade:
  • "Thought it was the right trade for us right now"
  • Felt like they could move an extra defenseman
  • Will likely move Laich to a center spot
  • The trade "helps both teams" with Columbus acquiring veteran presence
On Chimera, specifically:
  • Chimera has "good size" and "tremendous speed" and thinks he's a 15-goal a year scorer
  • "Don't mind" the edge Chimera plays with
On Clark:
  • "Clarkie was a terrific captain."
Why now?
  • The deal was "discussed in September" but these things "have a way of resurrecting themselves." 
  • He felt the team had "a hole we wanted to fill on the left side."
On getting cap relief (the Caps save over $2 million on the cap):
  • The move was "not necessarily about cap space"
  • But acknowledged that the team could be a major player at the deadline "if we wanted to be."
On the vacant captaincy:
  • Out of respect for Clark, the team will "take our time and do things right."
  • Will "address it in the near future."

Capitals Acquire Chimera for Clark and Jurcina

Posted by Dave Nichols | Monday, December 28, 2009 | , , , , | 0 comments »

It's a big deal when a team deals its captain mid-season, especially when that team currently holds the best record in the league and is playing at the top of its game. But that's exactly what the Washington Capitals did today, sending four-year captain Chris Clark and defenseman Milan Jurcina to Columbus in exchange for speedy winger Jason Chimera.

Clark, 33, a one-time 30-goal scorer, never regained that touch after injuries ravaged the better part of two seasons for him.  Clark had four goals and 11 assists this season with 27 penalty minutes.

Chimera, 30, has eight goals and nine assists with 47 penalty minutes with Columbus this season.  He brings size and speed and -- what can't be ignored -- a bit of toughness to the 2nd/3rd line mix.  In addition, Washington saves considerable space (over two million) under the salary cap with the move.

Speculation is rampant as to who should succeed Clark as captain.  On a team that should be making a serious run at going deep into the playoffs, it would be tough for the Caps to go without naming a captain. 

This season has seen four players -- Alex Ovechkin, Mike Knuble, Tom Poti and Brendan Morrison -- wearing the alternate captain's A at times, and Brooks Laich has always been a fan favorite to assume the mantel if'when the position became available.

For now, we wait and see on that question.

But one question that has been answered is this:  Will GM George McPhee be willing to make a trade to increase the Caps chances at chasing the Cup.  The answer is a resounding "yes".

From 2008.11.25 Chris Clark at ESPN Zone

Photo 2008 © Cheryl Nichols. All Rights Reserved.

Tomas Fleischmann scored twice, Jose Theodore allowed just one late goal, and the Washington Capitals cruised to a 6-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche before an announced crowd of 14,172, on the second game of a four-game road trip.

The Caps (21-7-6) were up 5-0 toward the end of the second period, when David Koci slammed Mike Green from behind, leaving the Caps defenseman face-down on the ice for several moments.  Teammate John Erskine stood up for his fallen teammate by going to-to-toe with the much larger Koci afterward.

Koci was penalized with a five-minute boarding major and both players received fighting and 10-minute misconducts.  Erskine took a two-minute instagator call as well.

Coach Bruce Boudreau was steamed after the game about the hit.  "Fifteen feet, he saw Green's No. 52, and it didn't stop him one iota from hitting him in the back and going for the head," Boudreau said. "So I hope they throw the book at him."

"To me that's just a bush-league hit," Boudreau added.

Green received stitches over his left eye, but pronounced himself fit to play Friday night in Vancouver.

Morrisonn also has a dust-up with Koci, and his status for Friday is "questionable," according to Boudreau.

With Green and Morrisonn out, Brooks Laich took a couple of penalty kills shifts in the third period with the team down to four defensemen.  At one point, Tom Poti and John Erskine were both in the box, leaving the team with just two defensemen, which prompted the promotion of Laich to the blueline.

Washington also recieved goals from Mike Knuble (6), Dave Steckel (2), Matt Bradley (6), and Nicklas Backstrom (11).  Kyle Wilson, recalled from Hershey and making his NHL debut on his 25th birthday, had two assists, as did Chris Clark.

Theodore made 27 saves in his return to Colorado, where he played for two season before joining the Capitals.  He played solid in goal, turning away everything that made it through to him until 11:21 remaining in the game, when Washington held a comfortable 5-0 margin.

It was the first loss for Colorado against an Eastern Conference team at home this season.

The Caps have a couple days off in western Canada before facing Vancouver on Friday night.

1. T. Fleischmann - WAS (Goals: 2, Assists: 0)
2. M. Bradley - WAS (Goals: 1, Assists: 1)
3. K. Wilson - WAS (Goals: 0, Assists: 2)

League-Best Caps Edge League-Worst Canes in OT

Posted by Dave Nichols | Saturday, December 12, 2009 | , , , | 0 comments »

For most of the night at Verizon Center, if you didn't know which team had the most points in the league and which had the least, you would have had a difficult time telling.

But something -- maybe even a commercial break video played a period earlier than normal -- finally woke up the Washington Capitals as they rebounded from a 2-0 deficit to take a lead, give it back up late, and eventually beat the Carolina Hurricanes in overtime 4-3.

"Whoever is doing the videoboard did the 'Unleash the Fury' video in the second period and it got the crowd into it, which was a tremendous thing," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We were dead emotionally. And that's what happens when you play a lot of games."

Mike Green played a very uneven game, but he took a pass from Nicklas Backstrom 1:16 into overtime in the high slot and lifted a wrist shot past Cam Ward, who did everything he could Friday night to help the struggling Canes earn a point on the road against the beasts of the East.

Green was on the ice for six of the seven goals scored in the contest, and his admitted poor play helped Carolina (7-18-6) score their goals.  He made a costly turnover while Washington was on a third period power play, leading to Tim Gleason's game-tying goal against Jose Theodore (16 saves), who did not have a great game himself.

"He didn't look comfortable on a lot of shots, let's just put it that way," Boudreau said dryly.

Gleason missed a chunk of the game after taking a puck in the face early on by Alex Ovechkin (two assists), needing a reported 30 stitches to close up the gash on his face.  He returned wearing a full face shield.  Gleason was the player last week Ovechkin took his kneeing major penalty against, which earned him a two-game suspension.

But for Green, netting the game-winner made all the difference.

"I got lucky there and was just excited it went in," Green said. "I didn't have a great game, so it's a great feeling."

"He was the first one that came up to me after the game and apologized," Boudreau said of Green. "I said no need to apologize, you know? Really good players, if they're having a bad game, still have a tendency to step up and be in the limelight at some point on a positive note."

After outshooting Carolina 14-4 in the first period, but trailing on the scoresheet 2-0, Alexander Semin decided to put the team on his shoulders in the second period.  The enigmatic winger cut the deficit in half with a nifty wrist shot that went through defenseman Brett Carson and over Ward's shoulder.

Then, on a semi-breakaway, Semin fended off the defender and got off a soft shot that Ward batted with his blocker, but it went right back to Semin, who poked it past the sprawled goaltender with 0.6 seconds remaining in the frame.

Tomas Fleischmann potted his 11th of the season early in the third, and the Caps were looking like they might walk away from the Canes at that point, but Jay Harrison pulled a loose puck off the goal line, keeping it a one goal game until Gleason scored his shorty.

So the Caps, with the best record in hockey, narrowly escaped tripping over Carolina, who own the worst record.  It gives Washington an 8-0-0 record against their Southeast Conference foes this season, a dominant performance thus far in a division ripe for the picking right now. 

But the effort, especially early, might not have been enough against a team that could finish a shot. 

Even though the Caps out shot Carolina 14-4 in the first period (and 40-19 overall), the Canes easily could have had four or five goals, chased Theodore early, and made life miserable for a team that has to turn right around and get on a plane for Toronto immediately after the game.

The Caps dodged that bullet, however, and hold onto the mantle of best record in hockey at 20-6-6, and now have a three point lead in the conference.

Miller, Sabres Blank Listless Caps 3-0

Posted by Dave Nichols | Thursday, December 10, 2009 | , , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals were shut down by Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller and the rest of his defensive teammates, accumulating 35 shots -- but very few second chances -- and leave the snowy, windy city shut out for the first time this season, losing 3-0 before a spirited crowd of 17,982 at HSBC Arena.

The Capitals, in the midst of playing nine of 11 games on the road, showed it last night.  They played with little of the energy or enthusiasm that was evident as recently as Monday night, a 3-0 shutout win over division rival Tampa Bay.

In that one, goalie Semyon Varlamov was sparkling, but the young Russian sat this one out, with what the team described as a lower-body injury, widely thought of as a strained groin, sustained in the scrap Monday night.

In his place was Jose Theodore (L, 7-4-5 3.06, .902), and while the veteran did not have a bad night (25 saves), he did give up a goal from behind the goal line and gave up a huge rebound that the same player, defenseman Henrik Tallinder, followed up and beat him on.

The biggest factor in the game last night, though, was Buffalo's outstanding goalie, and potential U.S. Olympian Ryan Miller.  Miller has been outstanding all season long, and last night was no different, stoning the Caps throughout the night. 

Early in the game he robbed Brendan Morrison on the power play, and in the third period stood on his head on several occasions to keep the scoresheet clean.

Miller made a diving glove save on Morrison again in the third with about 13 minutes left, and flicked away a Nicklas Backstrom backhand from close range minutes later.

"Those were two jaw-dropping saves," defenseman Steve Montador, who scored a first-period goal, told the wire services post-game. "There were stretches in the third where we probably could have done a better job, but at that time of the game we had dominated and done a good job of limiting their top line."

The loss prevented the Caps (19-6-6) from continuing their winning streak, which had reached six games.

"You can get to six [wins in a row] and be satisfied and say, 'Hey, we're pretty good.' Or you can say, 'Listen, I want to be great and I want to push the envelope,' " Boudreau told the media.

"It was the effort on our part," Brooks Laich said. "We're the bigger team, the faster team, the stronger team and we got outworked. We knew they were going to bring a big effort tonight and we didn't respond."

The Capitals are off until Friday, when they host the Carolina Hurricanes at 7:00 pm.

1. R. Miller - BUF (Saves: 35, Save Pct: 1.000)
2. N. Gerbe - BUF (Goals: 1, Assists: 1)
3. H. Tallinder - BUF (Goals: 1, Assists: 0)

GAME 28 REVIEW: Capitals Tame Toothless Panthers, 6-2

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, December 04, 2009 | , , , | 2 comments »

Washington, D.C. -- The Washington Capitals received six goals from five different players, and goalie Semyon Varlamov was not dented until well after the outcome had been decided, as the Caps cruised to a 6-2 win over a very tired Florida Panthers team, before not quite a capacity crowd at Verizon Center.

Florida was playing its third game in four nights, beating Colorado in overtime last night at home, and it really showed. 

The Panthers never really had their legs, and it got worse as the night went on, as they took penalty after penalty, cumulating with rookie Mike Duco taking seven minutes worth of major penalty time for instigating and fighting (plus a misconduct and game misconduct) after he jumped Alexandre Giroux solely because Giroux had the temerity to finish a heavy check behind the Panther goal.

Coach Bruce Boudeau was pointed on his assessment of Duco's play, on which the Caps scored twice, putting the game out of reach.  "You get a good hit, and not a hard hit, and you take exception to a hit?" he said.  "It's stupid.  It's a dumb thing and [Duco] took their team totally out of a chance to win the game."

As for the Caps scoring, it was early, often, and varied.  Alexander Semin, returning from a seven game absence with a wrist injury, scored twice, the first on a wicked wrist shot to start the festivities, and later on the seven minute power play.

"[Semin] didn't miss a beat at all," Brendan Morrison (power play goal, two assists) said. "He got us going with an early goal, a beautiful goal -- a toe drag and a great shot. Not too many guys can do that. It got us going on the bench."

Asked about the performance of the "other" Alex, Boudreau quipped, "He was well-rested.  He should have had a lot of energy."

The Caps got three power plays goals in twelve chances, something they have been struggling with in recent games.  And Matt Bradley added a short-handed marker -- a "change-up" as he described it -- the first for Washington this season.

Washington out shot Florida 44-28, a testament to the complete domination of a very tired team. 

"They could have been a little tired," Morrison said.  "We talked about getting on them early."

"I like the way we followed the game plan in the beginning [because] we thought they would be tired," Boudreau said of the Panthers, who got into D.C. around 3:00 am. "[If] we attacked them early and got them down early, they wouldn't have the strength to come back. It worked well."

Captain Chris Clark talked about the defensive effort being triggered by the good puck movement on offense.  "Our good defense came from us having the puck in the offensive zone."

"We had a lot of chances at the net and we just kept piling on down low and not turning the puck over on the blue lines or up high where they could get an odd-man rush."

Varlamov made 26 saves on 28 shots, and made just one mistake -- allowing a big rebound to Steven Weiss, who followed his own shot and beat the young netminder to get Florida on the board.  The Panthers got another one just a few moments later on a puck the looked like it was redirected twice.

The win was the Capitals' fourth straight overall and it improved their record against the Southeast Division to 6-0-0.

It's also the third win in three games against Florida, all without Alex Ovechkin.  The Great Eight missed the first two contests with his shoulder injury and tonight's affair due to his two-game suspension for a kneeing game misconduct again Carolina Monday night.

The Caps play without Ovechkin again Saturday night against a reeling Philadelphia Flyers squad, who lost 3-0 to Vancouver this evening.

1. A. Semin - WAS (Goals: 2, Assists: 2)
2. B. Morrison - WAS (Goals: 1, Assists: 2)
3. S. Varlamov - WAS (Saves: 26, Save Pct: .929)

According to (of all places), and confirmed by Captials Insider, Alex Ovechkin has been suspended for two games follwing his second game misconduct ejection in three games for the kneeing major he was assessed in last night's 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.

"I regret that this has happened," Ovechkin said in a statement released by the league. "I'm glad that Tim [Gleason] wasn't injured because I never ever want to see anyone get hurt. I am disappointed to miss these games and I can't wait to get back on the ice next week to help my team."

Ovechkin skated before practice today for a couple of minutes, and was listed as "day-to-day" with a sore right knee.  The diagnosis is much better than the original fears from watching the 235 pound winger collide with Hurricanes defenseman Gleason and writhe on the ice for several moments before being helped from the ice by Capitals trainer Greg Smith and center Nicklas Backstrom.

GAME 27 REVIEW: Caps Win Game, Lose Ovechkin

Posted by Dave Nichols | Monday, November 30, 2009 | , , , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals got two goals from Nicklas Backstrom and 35 saves from Jose Theodore, making his first start in over two weeks to beat Southeast Division foe Carolina on the road, 3-1.

But more importantly to the Capitals (16-5-6) was an injury to their two-time reigning Hart Trophy winner, Alex Ovechkin.

Ovechkin, trying to check Carolina defenseman Tim Gleason, sustained an apparent right knee injury when the two collided knee-to-knee in the first period.

The team released a statement to say that Ovechkin will not have an MRI tonight, but rather wait until the swelling goes down to get a better assessment of the injury.  The rugged left winger was observed by members of the press walking, apparently without crutches or a brace, on his way to the team bus after the game.

After Backstrom was wiped out by a big hit moments earlier, Ovechkin lined up Gleason for a hard check.  Gleason managed to move his upper body to avoid the hit high, but their lower bodies collided, with Ovechkin taking the brunt of the contact.  Gleason returned to the ice just a couple of shifts later.

Ovechkin was assessed a kneeing major penalty and game misconduct on the play, and the team managed to kill off the five-minute major.  Coming on the heels of his recent boarding penalty against Buffalo last week, the league will have to review the hit and consider disciplinary action.

This type of play will only go to further reinforce some people's opinion that Ovechkin plays with a reckless, irresponsible abandon.  And as far as intention from the type of play that it was, much more can be read into this one than the hit against Buffalo, where he hit the player shoulder-to-shoulder.

What we do know about Ovechkin's style of play is that he is relentless, willing, and relishes the opportunity to throw his body around in a rough, tough, aggressive manner.  And there are even those that say that Ovechkin plays "dirty".

Regardless of opinion, this is his second game misconduct in less than two weeks, prompting an automatic review and possible suspension.

But the disciplinary measures are secondary right now compared to the concerns about Ovechkin's health.

Meanwhile, Theodore played a magnificent game, especially early.  Carolina got 13 shots on goal in the game's first six minutes, and the veteran goalie, who had not played since Nov. 14, was equal to the task.

Backstrom had a big game as well, netting two goals.  He tipped in a nice feed from Ovechkin before the injury, and had a nice backhander to beat Michael Leighton, who was badly out of position.

Eric Fehr buried his seventh goals of the season as well, completing a two-on-one with Backstrom.

So the Washington Capitals organization and faithful will hold their collective breath overnight as everyone awaits Ovechkin's date with the team orthopedist tomorrow morning.  It's impossible to speculate at this point what the extent of the injury is until the results of his examination are released. 

But Ovechkin, one of the toughest players in the NHL pound-for-pound, was delicately assisted from the ice, clearly hanging his right leg limp, unable to put any of his weight on the leg.

Ovechkin's injury, and the circumstances surrounding it, are matters that go beyond the Capitals community.  The two-time MVP is one of the faces on the NHL, and expected to carry the torch for the Russian Olympic team in Vancouver in February.  His absence for an extended period of time would hurt the league and put a serious dent in Russia's Olympic hopes.

It's safe to say that the world's hockey community will anxiously await the Capitals' team doctor's diagnosis.

GAME 26 REVIEW: Caps Shootout Winner in Montreal

Posted by Dave Nichols | Saturday, November 28, 2009 | , , , , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals stormed out of the gates, going up 2-0 midway through the first period.  But the homestanding Montreal Canadiens scored three straight goals in the second and third periods and looked to be controlling the game. 

But Eric Fehr snuck a rebound attempt underneath Carey Price with 11.4 seconds remaining with the Caps playing six-on-four, and Nick Backstrom beat Price with a snap shot in the third round of the shootout to lift the Caps over the Canadiens, before a raucous, sellout crowd at the Bell Centre in Montreal.

Things got off to an encouraging start for the Capitals (15-5-6).  Fehr and Alex Ovechkin scored 1:12 apart in the first period to take a serious 2-0 lead, and minutes later, Ovechkin came in alone on a breakaway on Price.  The "Great 8" put a quick deke on the netminder and went to his forehand, but Price was equal to the task, keeping his team in the game long enough to get them started.

Montreal (12-12-2) answered pretty quickly in the second period.  With Jay Beagle in the box for a "light" tripping penalty, Jaroslav Spacek landed a blast from the point to cut the deficit in half at 5:40. 

Ten minutes later, Tomas Plekanec lifted a backhand past Semyon Varlamov (21 saves on 24 shots) after a scrum in front of the net.  Plekanec got behind Karl Alzner in the confusion, but it was a hiccup in the rookie's otherwise terrific game, just his second of the season.  In 16:57 of total ice time, he had an even rating, and assisted on Fehr's first goal.

Montreal took the lead at 5:34 of the third, with Travis Moen getting credit for a tip-in of Marc-Andre Bergeron's booming slap shot from the point.  The goal came at the end of a power play, one where the Caps played over a minute down two men.  They killed off the five-on-three, but long their energy just at the end of the shift to give up the big shot.

Things looked bleak in the dwindling minutes of the final frame.  Price came up huge on several occasions, but he himself almost made the fatal mistake.  With less than two minutes remaining, he tried to clear a puck along the boards, but sent it right to the tape of Brendan Morrison. 

The veteran pivot put the shot on net, but Price got just enough of it to push it out of the goal.

The Caps would get the last, best chance though.  With Varlamov off for the extra skater at the 1:30 mark, Washington got good pressure on the Montreal net.  At 19:44, Paul Mara was whistled for high-sticking, giving the Caps an offensive zone draw.

Nick Backstrom got tied up on the draw, but turned his body into Plekanec and kicked the puck back to Mike Green at the point.  He sent the puck across the rink to Ovechkin at the opposite point, who unleashed a blast that Price turned away.

But Fehr was in the right place at the right time, and slid the puck just underneath Price for the equalizer.

Overtime was scoreless, then both goalies stopped the first two shooters in the shootout.  Varlamov then stoned Plekanec after the Canadien went way wide and then tried to go short side, but the young Russian netminder got his left pad down to close the door.

Backstrom then got his chance, and he did not disappoint.  He went straight at Price, and fired a snap shot stick side that left the goalie defenseless.

The Caps now head down to Carolina to take on the Hurricanes Monday night at 7:00 pm.

1. A. Ovechkin - WAS (Goals: 1, Assists: 1)
2. R. Hamrlik - MON (Goals: 0, Assists: 2)
3. E. Fehr - WAS (Goals: 2, Assists: 0)

GAME 25 REVIEW: Varlamov Blanks Sabres 2-0

Posted by Dave Nichols | Thursday, November 26, 2009 | , , , | 0 comments »

Washington, DC -- Semyon Varlamov made the saves, Alex Ovechkin and Eric Fehr scored the goals, and the Caps' penalty killers put the clamps on in the third period, as the Washington Capitals shut out the Buffalo Sabres 2-0 before a capacity crowd at the house that Abe Pollin built, in the first hockey game since the Capitals' original owner passed away Tuesday.

The young goaltender made 25 saves for his first career regular season shut out, many in spectacular fashion, especially in the third period.

Varlamov needed to be on his game, as did the Caps penalty killers, in the final frame.  Their leader, Alex Ovechkin, drew a five minute boarding major, with the accompanying game misconduct that went along with it.

Ovechkin ran into Patrick Kaleta just 3:38 into the third period from behind, sending the Sabre into the boards face first.  The replay showed that Ovechkin hit Kaleta in the shoulder, but the hit was hard enough at full-speed to earn the call, much to the chagrin of the Verizon Center faithful.

"I just go take a hit and [Kaleta] just fell into the boards. ... Max, it's got to be 2 minutes," Ovechkin said.

"We just watched it a half a dozen times...Kaleta saw him coming," coach Bruce Boudreau explained after the game.  "It might have warranted a two minute minor, but I don't think it warranted anything more than that."

Regardless, Ovechkin would watch the rest of this one from the locker room.

The Caps killed the five minute major, and was given a brief reprise as Craig Rivet took a two-minute tripping penalty in the middle of it. 

"You lose the most prolific scorer on the planet Earth, which is tough," defenseman Brian Pothier said. "But you have to kill a five-minute penalty. As Ovie's skating off the ice, we're telling him, 'We've got this one for you.' He does so much for our team. Every night, he bails us out. We could sure do it for him."

They also killed a two-minute delay of game penalty on an especially lazy play by Mike Green behind his own net, as he lofted the puck off the ice.

Behind the killers, Varlamov was rock solid.  He was tight on the posts and even made a couple of nice glove saves as the time ticked away.

"Varly was solid," Boudreau said. "It was like he was saying, 'I'm not going to let this happen to me again in the third period.'"

Ovechkin opened the scoring in the first period, taking a puck between the Caps' circles, carried into the offensive zone, skated across the high slot, and flung a wrist shot past Sabres goalie Ryan Miler (22 saves).  It was his 17th of this campaign.

Eric Fehr got the insurance goal at 13:38 of the third.  Brendan Morrison won an offensive zone draw back to Mike Green, who slapped a pass to the end boards, where Morrison gained control.  The pivot then skated the puck behind the net and found Fehr standing on the doorstep, unmolested by Sabres defense. 

Fehr banged the puck past Miller for his fourth goal of the season.

But the 21-year old netminder was the biggest story of the game.  He is 4-0-2 in his last six games with a goals against under 1.50.  He seems to have wrested the mantel of No. 1 goalie from Jose Theodore, who was not playing at the top of his game even before his recent sabbatical.

Varlamov, through an interpreter, was succinct in his assessment of his performance, "I've gotten over being nervous."

Music to Caps fans' ears.

The Washington Capitals, as they have so many times this season already, dominated through two periods, taking a 3-1 lead into the final frame against the Ottawa Senators Monday evening.

What followed was "a collapse by 20 guys and I don't know how else to sugarcoat it," according to coach Bruce Boudreau after the game. 

Ottawa scored twice in the third to tie and Mike Fisher, the NHL's No. 3 star of the week last week, batted home a centering pass from Chris Phillips past Semyon Varlamov (33 saves) in overtime to seal Washington's fate.

The Capitals (13-5-6), tied for the lead in the Eastern Conference with Pittsburgh, lost for the fourth time in five games (1-2-2) during a very trying time on the schedule, and with the accumulation of injuries across the team.

Missing again from the lineup were Alexander Semin, Milan Jurcina, Boyd Gordon, Shaone Morrisonn, Tom Poti, Mike Knuble and Quintin Laing.

No one wants to blame injuries and the schedule for the recent troubles, but reasons are different than excuses.

"I don't think the problem was physical," center David Steckel said. "I just think mentally we shut it down."

"It's a tough loss. I still can't really believe that we let it slip away," said Jay Beagle, who registered his first NHL goal to give the Caps a two-goal lead.  "I scored but at the same point you're disappointed with the loss so it's kind of a bitter feeling."

Washington has allowed a power play goal that has tied or been the go-ahead goal in the third period eight times this season, and unfortunately the trend continued.

Three penalties in the third period made playing with the lead more dangerous than it should have been.  Ottawa tied it up with Alex Ovechkin in the box for a questionable roughing call.  "I think he just go low and I just hit him," Ovechkin said. "But I don't take a penalty."

The Caps could do nothing with a gift later in the period, as the Senators were whistled for too many men on the ice.

"They wanted it more.  We take three dumb penalties, they get the momentum, they get the crowd into it and we leave our poor goalie out to dry," Boudreau said.

"What happens a lot to us is that we go two periods without a penalty and then all of a sudden it's, well, 'We got to call something on them.' And you get a cheap one. But at least two of them were deserved."

Washington outshot Ottawa 25-15 through the first two periods of play, but the table was reversed in the third, as the Sens dominated, beating the Caps in shots 18-3.

The Caps got first period goals from Chris Clark (2) and Brendan Morrison (8) to take the early 2-1 lead, and Beagle got his first in the second period, which should have made things comfortable in the third period.

But it seems like lately, when things should be comfortable, that's when the Capitals have their most trouble.

The Caps are off until Wednesday night, when they host the Buffalo Sabres at 7:00 pm at Verizon Center.
1. M. Fisher - OTT (Goals: 1, Assists: 0)
2. P. Regin - OTT (Goals: 1, Assists: 0)
3. M. Green - WAS (Goals: 0, Assists: 1)

Mike Green assisted on Morrison's goal, extending his point streak to seven games.

GAME 22 REVIEW: Caps Last Chance Rings Post, Not Bell

Posted by Dave Nichols | Saturday, November 21, 2009 | , , , | 0 comments »

John Carlson making his NHL Debut
Photo © 2009 Cheryl Nichols. All Rights Reserved.

With 19 seconds remaining in the game and trailing by one, Mike Green hit the right post flush and the puck gently came to rest underneath Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price, and the Washington Capitals best chance to tie up a game they struggled in was whistled dead. 

Two ensuing faceoffs provided no more help, and the Caps (13-5-4) fell 3-2 before a capacity crowd at the Verizon Center Friday night.

Washington played the final 1:52 on a power play, and much of the time played with a six-to-four man advantage.

"There was a lot of red out there," Price said about the last two minutes to the media after the game.  "Especially when I lost my stick. I've got six players against four with no stick. That makes it pretty tough."

Tough, but obviously not impossible.

The Capitals found themselves down 3-1 midway through the third period due to an uneven, sometimes sloppy performance.

With several players wearing jerseys numbers in the 70s and 80s, Washington resembled a traveling pre-season squad.

Missing from the lineup were such regulars as Alexander Semin, Mike Knuble, Boyd Gordon, Quintin Laing, Milan Jurcina, Shaone Morrisonn and Jose Theodore.  In were 21-year old Michal Neuvirth, 19-year old John Carlson and others that started the season in AHL Hershey, such as Mathieu Perrault, Jay Beagle.

Michal Neuvirth started at Goalie.  Photo © 2009 Cheryl Nichols. All Rights Reserved.

It's no wonder the Capitals looked like a different team in the first period of the game.  They are a different team.

"It's easy to rip on your players when you lose to a team that's below you in the standings," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said, "but I thought Montreal played a strong game. The biggest thing was I didn't think we were ready at the start of the game. "

Regardless, you have to play with what you have, and tonight the Caps just weren't ready out of the gate, despite taking the early lead.

"We got the sense of urgency in the last two periods," he added. "Sometimes it's too late when the other goalie is on top of his game."

Eric Fehr struck with the only goal in the first period.  After good forechecking by Perrault and David Steckel, Fehr beat Price with a rising wrist shot as Steckel skated right in front of the Montreal goaltender.

But Les Habitents registered the next three tallies, including two goals in 2:47 in the second period.  There was a deflection and a bounce off a Capitals player, so youngster Neuvirth (19 saves) can't really be faulted too hard one either.

"He did what a starting pitcher is supposed to do," Boudreau said of the goalie, making his first start of the season.  ""He kept us in the game. And we didn't take advantage of it."

The Canadiens' last goal was a rocket by Mike Cammilleri on a questionable power play midway through the third period.

It was at that time the Caps woke up, but it was too little, too late.

Washington got it's second goal off a terrific shot-pass from Green to Brendan Morrison, who then beat Price with a backhander as he skated through the crease, setting up the final two-minute flurry.

Despite the onslaught, the Caps never did get the equalizer.

There is no rest for the weary, though.  The team loaded up for their charter immediately after the game for a 7:00 pm road faceoff with the woeful Toronto Maple Leafs tomorrow.

Hopefully they find their legs earlier Saturday evening than they did Friday.

NOTES:  Carlson made his N.H.L. debut and acquitted himself well.  He led the team in hits and rang a shot off the post in the first period in a bid for his first goal.  "I thought [he] played well," Boudreau commented.  "He's going to be a good player in this league for a long time."

D Tom Poti left in the second period with an undisclosed upper body injury.  He is listed day-to-day, and Boudreau indicated the team will call up another player for Saturday's game, implying that Shaone Morrisonn, Milan Jurcina and Poti all will be unavailable.

GAME 21 REVIEW: Bradley Leads Caps Past Rangers 4-2

Posted by Dave Nichols | Wednesday, November 18, 2009 | , , | 1 comments »

Matt Bradley was in the the right place twice last night in the Washington Capitals 4-2 win over the New York Rangers, and he made the right plays both times.

First, he took on Rangers tough guy Aaron Voros, trading wild right hand punches that left the smaller Bradley bloodied about his left eye, requiring six stiches.  Later, he gathered in a loose puck, shielded rookie defenseman Matt Gilroy, and beat Henrik Lundqvist high to the glove side to break a 2-2 tie in the third period.

Bradley, one of the team's unsung heroes, was typically nonchalant about the fight, which seemed to spark the entire Capitals team.  "It didn't bother me. I could feel the blood coming, but there is no pain or anything. It's just one of those things that is more annoying than anything. You have to go in and get stitches and you have to miss five minutes."

The game marked the return of Alex Ovechkin to Washington's line-up.  The two-time Hart Trophy winner had missed the previous six games with an upper body injury, and he returned with a flourish, banging home a one-timer from the point on a power play in the first period for his 15th goal of the season. 

Ovechkin also doled out several hits, so it appears the injury will not keep him from playing the physical game he is accustomed to.

Semyon Varlamov made 18 saves on 20 shots to earn the win, and joins a small group of goalies to win 12 of their first 14 NHL decisions.

And Bruce Boudreau hit the 100 win mark for his career, the fourth fastest in NHL history to reach the century mark.

But the game Tuesday night belonged to Bradley, the scrappy fourth line winger.  His fourth goal of the season lifted his team in the waning moments of a close hockey game, and kept them on top of the standings in the Eastern Conference.

1. A. Ovechkin - WAS (Goals: 1, Assists: 0)
2. M. Gaborik - NYR (Goals: 2, Assists: 0)
3. M. Bradley - WAS (Goals: 1, Assists: 0)

Quentin Laing suffered a broken jaw blocking a shot with his face in the third period.  It's unknown how long the injury will keep him siddelined, but preliminary reports say it could be "weeks" before he can play again.

Tomas Fleischmann assisted on Ovechkin's goal, pushing his scoring streak to nine games, tying Mike Green for the longest such streak this season.

The Caps' power play went 2-for-4, and has scored at least one goal in all but four games this season. It's now up to 25.6 percent and is ranked third in the league.

Theodore Out for Tonight's Game with Rangers

Posted by Dave Nichols | Tuesday, November 17, 2009 | , , , , , | 0 comments »

According to Capitals Insider, goalie Jose Theodore has left the team and retuned to Washington for "personal reasons".  The Caps recalled Michael Neuvirth to back up Semyon Varlamov tonight against the New York Rangers.

Also, Jay Beagle was recalled in case David Steckel can't go.  Steckel took a puck off the foot in yesterday's practice and was limping around afterward.

More details about Theodore's situation as they become available.

Photo © 2009 Cheryl Nichols. All Rights Reserved.

GAME 20 REVIEW: Devils Over Caps 5-2

Posted by Cheryl Nichols | Sunday, November 15, 2009 | , , , | 0 comments »

Jose Theodore had a rough night in New Jersey.

Photo © 2009 Cheryl Nichols. All Rights Reserved.

The Caps are taking the day off in NYC tomorrow before returning to Prudential Center for practice on Monday and then game Tuesday night at Madison Square Gardens against Rangers.


04:15 WAS - [Power Play] T. Fleischmann (7), Slap Shot. Assist: Morrison, Green
05:02 WAS - M. Perreault (20), Wrist Shot. Assist: Green, Bradley
09:47 NJ - C. White (1), Wrist Shot. Assist: Langenbrunner, Zubrus

05:44 NJ - [Power Play] J. Langenbrunner (4), Slap Shot. Assist: Murphy, Bergfors
14:40 NJ - Z. Parise (10), Wrist Shot. Assist: Zajac
19:04 NJ - M. Halischuk (1), Wrist Shot. Assist: Bergfors, Sestito

03:23 NJ - C. Murphy (2), Tip-In. Assist: Zajac


1. Z. Parise - NJ (Goals: 1, Assists: 0)
2. J. Langenbrunner - NJ (Goals: 1, Assists: 1)
3. M. Halischuk - NJ (Goals: 1, Assists: 0)

GAME 19 REVIEW: Into the Wild, Knuble Breaks Finger

Posted by Cheryl Nichols | Sunday, November 15, 2009 | , , , | 0 comments »

Posted by Anthony Amobi, Special Contributor of Caps News Network

WASHINGTON – Despite not having Alex Ovechkin on the ice, the Washington Capitals aren’t suffering – in fact, they’re rolling. They made the most of their opportunities on Friday night, and in the end, the Capitals defeated the Minnesota Wild, 3-1.

The game was competitive from start to finish and Washington finally broke a 1-1 tie in the third period as Brian Pothier scored his second goal of the season at the two minute mark. The Capitals went up 3-1 in the final minute as Brooks Laich got his eighth goal of the season with an empty-netter.

Despite an excellent showing by the Wild’s Josh Harding – who stopped 38 of 40 shots on goal – he was overwhelmed in the third quarter and Minnesota could not get anything going.

Meanwhile, Washington’s Semyon Varlamov was superb, only allowing one goal – Cal Clutterbuck’s shot with a minute into the second period that gave Minnesota an early 1-0 lead. Overall, Varlamov had 29 saves against 30 shots on goal.

The Capitals got on the four minutes later as they had a power play and Mike Green took advantage. Minnesota covered Washington as tight as they could during the power play; however, the Capitals saw an opening, and Mike Green – with an assist from a Tomas Fleischman pass – scored his 4th goal of the season sending a shot past the legs of Harding to tie the game at one.

Washington may have won the game; however, they may have lost yet another teammate to injury.

Mike Knuble had to leave the game in the first period, as he fell over Harding in the Wild’s goal and crashed into the net, thanks to a push by Minnesota’s Marek Zidlicky. It looks as if his finger is broken and will more than likely need surgery.

Photos © 2009 Cheryl Nichols. All Rights Reserved.
In other news, it looks like Alex Ovechkin may be on his way back to the ice. He’s not played since November 1st with a upper-body issue; however, he’s been practicing with the team this week and may return over within the week.

The timetable for Ovechkin’s return is undetermined.


01:31 NJ - C. Clutterbuck (4), Slap Shot.  Assists: B. Burns and K. Brodziak.
5:39 WAS - [Power play] M. Green (3), Slap Shot.  Assists: T. Fleischmann and B. Morrison.

02:00 WAS Brian Pothier (2), Snap Shot.  Assists: M. Perreault and E. Fehr.
19:23 WAS [Empty Net] Brooks Laich  (8), Wrist Shot.  Unassisted.

1. J. Harding - MIN (Saves: 38, Save Pct.: .950)
2. B. Pothier - WAS (Goals: 1, Assists: 0)
3. T. Fleischmann - WAS (Goals: 0, Assists: 1)

CAPS GAME NIGHT--GAME 19: Let's Get Wild

Posted by Cheryl Nichols | Friday, November 13, 2009 | , , , , | 0 comments »

Minnesota Wild (7-10-1, 15 points, 5th in Northwest Division)
Washington Capitals (11-3-4, 26 points, 1st in Southeast Division)

7:00 at Verizon Center

The Washington Capitals host the Minnesota Wild on Friday the 13th for the much anticipated match up of Cap Center Nicklas Backstrom vs. Wild Goalie Niklas Backstrom.

Alex Ovechkin was hoping to be back on the ice on Friday night, however, it sounds like he needs a couple more days.  Caps Insider explains that Ovi is getting closer.

Jeff Schultz is a game-time decision. 

WAS: G: Ovechkin (14) A: Backstrom (18) P: Ovechkin (22) +/-: Ovechkin (+8)
MIN: G: Koivu (5) A:  Koivu (11)  P: Koivu (16)  +/-: Shane Hnidy (0)

WAS: LW Alex Ovechkin (IR-Upper body), D Jeff Schultz (Q-Lower body), F Boyd Gordon (DTD-back)
MIN: C Pierre-Marc Bouchard (IR-Head), RW Petr Sykora (OUT-Concussion)

GAME 18 REVIEW: Varly Saves the Day

Posted by Cheryl Nichols | Thursday, November 12, 2009 | , , , , , | 3 comments »

**Interesting to note that the number 11 was an important number in DC sports today.  Earlier on Wedneday, the Washington Nationals' made history when Ryan Zimmerman (#11) won the NL 3B Gold Glove which is the first Gold Glove for the Nationals.  Then tonight, the Caps won their eleventh in an eleven round shootout.  Both of these took place on the eleventh day of the eleventh month.**

Washington, DC -- The Washington Capitals hosted the New York Islanders on a cold and rainy night, but made the night very exciting with a 5-4 win in an eleven round shootout.  Winning goal was scored by Captain Chris Clark.

Alex Semin is back and didn't waste any time getting things started.   Eight seconds in (and tying a franchise record for fastest goal to start a game), Semin scored with a rocket slap shot after Morrison won the draw.  Semin scored twice in regulation and again in the shootout.  Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau said, "He looked like he wanted to play.  And when he wants to play, he could have had six. He's scary good when he's motivated. There's the good and the bad -- the goal, the giveaway, the miss."

The Islanders quickly responded with a Matt Moulson goal at 1:02.  New York scored another two goals so had three unanswered goals in less than seven minutes of the first period.  The game was on pace for a football score.

Jose Theodore was pulled at 6:54 after the three Islander goals and replaced by Semyon Varlamov.  

"I don’t like to do that,” said Coach Boudreau of pulling Theodore, “especially so early, but he looked a little rattled and he looked a little down. It’s not like pulling him when the game is out of reach, we had so much time left. The last time he was pulled Varly came in and shut the door, so I thought he would be able to do it again. Theo has played so well for us and he had a rough outing and he’ll come back this week and play another game and he’ll be great for us.”

Tomas Fleischmann scored on a power play at the end of the first period. The second period had only two goals and both were by Caps including Semin's second goal of the night to tie the game at three. With only 3:08 left in second, Eric Fehr became the tenth Cap to score in the four games where Ovechkin has been sidelined. "Good teams have guys pick it up," Boudreau said. "But by no means do we not miss him."

Varlamov shut down the Islanders until Trent Hunter scored on a power play with only 2:08 left in regulation to tie it up at four.  "We can't stand prosperity," Boudreau said. "We go penalty-less for two periods, then we take three in the third."

After a scoreless overtime, Varlamov yielded only one goal in the shootout by Jeff Tambellini which was on the Islanders' first attempt. Varly made several fantastic saves in the shootout, however, the highlight was in Hunter's 9th round shot which Varly stopped with his pads, then used his arms to grab the crossbar to stop from sliding into the goal with the puck in his pads. "I was just skating back into the goal very fast," he said through an interpreter. "I just grabbed the first thing I could to stop my movement into the net."

It took eleven rounds of the shootout before Captain Chris Clark beat Roloson to give the Caps the win.

Varlavmov earned the number one star of the game as well as the Hardhat for his 25 saves and .962 Save Pct:.

00:08 Alex Semin (8), Slap Shot. Assist: B Morrison
01:02 Matt Moulson (8), Wrist Shot. Assist: Streit
05:10 Mark Streit (3), Slap Shot. Assist: Gervais, Schremp
06:54 Sean Bergenheim (2), Backhand. Unassisted.
13:42 Power Play -Tomas Fleischmann (6), Slap Shot. Assist: Backstrom, Knuble

05:35 Power Play -Alex Semin (9), Snap Shot. Assist: Green
16:46 Eric Fehr (2), Backhand. Assist: Clark, Green

17:52 Power Play - Trent Hunter (2), Slap Shot. Assist: Tavares, Nielsen


NYI: Tambellini (Round 1), Wrist Shot
WAS: Semin (Round 2), Backhand and Clark (Round 12), Snap

1. S. Varlamov - WAS (Saves: 25, Save Pct: .962)
2. A. Semin - WAS (Goals: 2, Assists: 0)
3. M. Streit - NYI (Goals: 1, Assists: 1)

Photos © 2009 Cheryl Nichols. All Rights Reserved.

Nylander Cleared Waivers, Heading to Russia?

Posted by Cheryl Nichols | Tuesday, November 10, 2009 | , , | 1 comments »

Michael Nylander has cleared waivers.  There are several sources reporting that he is heading to Russia, however, we have not seen confirmation.

Tarik tweeted about 1:15pm today that the "Caps say they don't expect an update on Michael Nylander's status today."

Photo © 2008 Cheryl Nichols

GAME 15 REVIEW: Penalties Do In Caps Late, Lose 3-2 to Devils

Posted by Dave Nichols | Thursday, November 05, 2009 | , , , | 2 comments »

The Washington Capitals, looking for someone to provide a spark in the absence of two-time defending Hart Trophy winner Alex Ovechkin, got the complete opposite last night in a 3-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils (9-4-0).

Four third period penalties proved costly, as the Devils netted two power play goals, and held on to give the Caps (8-3-4) their third loss in a row, though just their third regulation loss of the season.

Coach Bruce Boudreau expressed his frustation to the media after the game, "Guys didn't come to play," Boudreau said. "Whether they are feeling sorry for themselves because Alex is not in, I don't know."

In particular, Alex Semin -- the one player on this roster that has talent that can approach the "Great 8" -- looked completely lost.  In addition to ineffective play, he took three penalties total, and two of the four third period infractions that kept the Caps on their heels instead of attacking.

Semin had as many penalties as shots.

Nine seconds after Semin went to the box for a hook, Niclas Bergfors (two power play goals) put a slap shot behind Semyon Varlamov (29 saves) for break a 1-1 tie.  So instead of stepping up, Semin let his team down, and Boudreau was cognizant of it.

"Not only did some of them not stand out, but they cost us the game," Boudreau said. "It's a tough one to swallow."

"They're automatic penalties," said Boudreau, of the third period mistakes. "If you go behind the net and you put your stick on a guy you're going to get a penalty. Brendan Morrison has been in the league for 10 years. Alexander Semin has been in the league for five years and it's just dumb penalties."

Tyler Sloan (1) and Tomas Fleischmann (3) tallied for the Caps.  Mathieu Perrault, making his NHL debut, assisted on both goals in just 10:30 of ice time.

But the theme of last night's game was lazy, ineffective play, something the Caps are not going to get away with while their goal-per-game superstar mends from his upper body injury, believed to be a left shoulder strain.

"We need to take leadership and take ownership of the dumb things we're doing," said Washington forward Mike Knuble, who has now taken a foul in the third period the last two games. "We have to stop it."

None of Washington's "Young Guns" played particularly well Wednesday night.  Semin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green were all held without a point, and Green even deflected one of the New Jersey goals into his own net.

What might be the most troubling comment of all came from veteran New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur, when asked about the Caps missing Ovechkin.  "The excitement level that he brings, the energy that he brings to the table, that wasn't there.  You can tell."

"You can tell."  Not words that Bruce Boudreau wants to hear.

Washington gets a day to think about it as they travel to Florida for the first of a home-and-home with the Panthers this weekend.

They better hope Ovechkin proves to be a fast healer, as he has in the past.  If Wednesday night was any indication, this team needs Ovechkin more than they anyone realizes.

For the second game in a row, the Washington Capitals fell in overtime at home to an opponent they should have dominated.  Sunday afternoon, in a strange 5:00 pm start, the Caps fell to the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-4 when R.J. Umberger scored a power play goal, his second of the game, 1:45 into the overtime period.

What was worse was the goal, and the situation that led up to it, that allowed the Jackets to tie the game.  Raffi Torres tipped in a cross-crease pass just as a slashing penalty to veteran Mike Knuble expired...with 23 seconds remaining in the game.

"Well, we took a stupid penalty, and that's what happens when you take stupid penalties," coach Bruce Boudreau said about Knuble's slash.  "It was a selfish penalty, and they cost you all the time."

It's unfortunate the way things sorted out, since the team really rallied after losing their leader, Alex Ovechkin, to an injury mid-way through the second period.

About six minutes into the second period, the back-to-back Hart Trophy winner collided with Torres and fell awkwardly to the ice.  He managed to get to his feet and skate off on his own, but he did not return.

Coach Bruce Boudreau did not have much to say about anything in the post-game press conference, but did managed to say Ovechkin was day-to-day with an upper body injury.

The play the caused Ovechkin to leave came a few shifts after a fracas along the boards where Ovechkin tangled up with Jason Chimera and Jared Boll.  Ovechkin had laid out Chimera earlier in the game, and the two started to mix it up a bit and Boll came to the aid of his teammate.

Ovechkin was coy with the media after the game.

"It was just a moment of the game. Nothing happened. [Chimera] hit me, I hit him. It was a little battle over there but nothing happen. I can't tell you how I got hurt."

Columbus' two late goals and the injury overshadowed a back-and-forth contest that was disjointed, penalty-filled, and frankly, downright ugly.

The Blue Jackets held a 2-1 lead after two periods, and the Caps (8-2-4) needed someone to step up in Ovechkin's absence.  That person was winger Brooks Laich.

Laich scored twice in a little over two minutes in the third as Washington retook the lead at 10:23.

But the lead would be short-lived, as Torres converted a wrap-around backhand to beat a stickless Jose Theodore, who seemed to be stiffening up late in the game, using several timeouts to get down on the ice and stretch out.

Quentin Laing banged home a nice pass from David Steckel, who collected a shot from the point by Matt Bradley, to re-take the lead at 16:34, and the capacity crowd at Verizon hoped that would be the straw that broke Columbus' collective back.

"We wanted to prove this team isn't about one guy, it's about a team, and we wanted to show people we can come back," Laing said in the quiet Capitals locker.

But then the veteran Knuble took a retaliatory hack at a Columbus defender with 2:30 left, and the complexion of the game changed.

So the Caps lost their leader and lost a game.  They have taken one point apiece in home games against the New York Islanders and Columbus.

Washington is 6-0-3 in their last nine games, but they have shown the frustrating inability to close out games.  You have to think they feel like they've left two points on the table the last two games.

And if Ovechkin misses any time, or Theodore's back is flaring up, they will have to do more than rally.  They will have to find a way to finish off these weaker opponents -- especially at home.

Brendan Morrison said it best after the game. "We rallied and did a lot of good things offensively, and then we just go and shoot ourselves in the foot. It is frustrating because it was a game we should have won."

Washington does not want those words to become a familiar phrase.