After failing to extend their winning streak to 15 in an OT loss to the Habs (but not without yet again coming out like gangbusters in the third period), the league-leading Capitals hoped to start a fresh streak against a red-hot Ottawa Senators club tonight. The surging Senators had their own win streak rolling along (11 games to be exact) until they were dashed by the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Senators' veteran captain, Daniel Alfredsson, leads the team with 47 points - he'll join Washington's Nick Backstrom on Team Sweden in a few days. Not far behind Alfredsson is the dashing Mike Fisher with 43 and former Canadien, Alexei Kovalev, with 41. Goaltender Brian Elliott got the nod against the Caps for his 12th straight appearance. On the other end of the ice, Capitals fans welcomed back Semyon Varlamov, who returned to the crease for the first time since December! Karl Alzner and Chris Bourque made the treacherous snow-covered trek from Hershey to fly to Ottawa and join the team as Jason Chimera and Tom Poti have been bitten by the injury bug.
Varly was the unfortunate recipient of a sizzling top shelf goal by Jason Spezza, where the boys once again saw the opposing team light the lamp first. About four minutes later, Milan Michalek shot a rocket right off the faceoff that blew by Varlamov and all of the sudden, the Sens had a 2-0 lead. Tomas Fleischmann cut Ottawa's lead to 1 with a tally of his own at 17:00. The first period was virtually penalty-free until Brendan Morrison took a seat for hooking with about 30 seconds left to play, not before pleading his case to the guys in stripes. On the resulting power play, the Senators' captain padded their lead again by two with help from Michalek and Spezza. End of first: 2-1
The Sens had another outstanding scoring chance as Jason Spezza sped down the ice on a breakaway in the opening minutes of the second period but was stopped in his tracks by Semyon Varlamov. The second penalty of the game went against Ottawa but the Caps seemed to be a bit discombobulated on the power play and the Sens were successful on the PK. Minutes later, big ole Mike Knuble screened Brian Elliott, allowing big ole Jeff Schultz to score from the point for his third tally of the season. Varly seemed to get his groove back in the middle stanza, making saves on the thugmongering Jarko Ruutu and fellow Russian AK27.
And if the boys seemed sleepy in the first, it appears that Alex Semin might have borrowed some of his pal Ovi's ritual smelling salts, as he used his soft hands to absolutely smoke Elliott with two dazzling goals a mere 42 seconds apart to give the Caps a 4-3 lead. But Sens' poster boy for bad behavior (and cosmetic dentistry), Chris Neil, put the puck past a sprawling Varlamov late in the second for the tie. End of second: 4 -4
The action continued fast and furious in the final period as Chris Phillips got the Senators back on the board as Caps d-man Tyler Sloan stood around watching as if he was waiting for VDOT to come dig him out from the snowpocalypse - what was that? Moments after scoring, Alex Ovechkin was called for interference as he pushed Mike Fisher's fallen stick out of his way and Alex Kovalev put the Sens up by 2 with a power play goal. Both Elliott and Varlamov exchanged circ d'soleil-esque saves on their respective ends. But those smelling salts must have been working overtime, as Alex Semin scored another beauty at 13:37 to bring the Caps within one and net himself a hat trick! Semin's hat trick marked the third hat trick in three games, with Laich's against Montreal and Ovi's against Pittsburgh.
With Varly on the bench and an extra skater, the boys skated furiously to try and take this one into OT in another action-packed ending. The officials failed to call icing on the Sens in the final seconds of the game, infuriating Bruce Boudreau. But the Senators held on to claim the victory and hand the Caps their second loss in as many days, despite again rebounding from a slow start. The boys need to tighten up that defense core for sure and HM is sure that's first on Gabby's to-do list with their next practice.This game also saw way too many "silly and reckless" passes in the Caps' own zone. It remains to be seen whether or not GMGM will add a blueliner to bolster the 'd' before the trade deadline. In the post-game press conference, Boudreau called out both the defense as well as Varlamov, calling their performances "horrible" - the coach was visibly frustrated. Final Score: Sens 6 - Caps 5
**Editor's Note: Hockey Mom wants to wish my boys a very happy birthday tomorrow - I can't believe the twins were born 14 years ago already! When did my "cute little boys" get taller than me - eegads!