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Canadiens fall to Capitals

Thursday, 04.01.2007 / 12:00 AM / News
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Canadiens fall to Capitals
Washington snaps five-game losing streak

Olaf Kolzig closed the door on the Habs after giving up the game's opening goal.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Washington goalie Olie Kolzig registered no objection, of course, to the interference call on Montreal captain Saku Koivu that wiped out what would have been a tying goal for the Canadiens.

Koivu argued about the penalty right away and complained some more in the locker room.

Kolzig and Koivu did agree on something: That ruling changed the complexion of the contest, and Washington went on to end its five-game losing streak by beating Montreal 5-1 Thursday night, with two goals apiece from Dainius Zubrus and Alexander Semin.

Reigning rookie of the year Alex Ovechkin's goal drought reached a season-worst five games, but he did have three assists.

"The turning point, obviously, was the goalie interference call," said Kolzig, who made 27 saves. "Bottom line: We took advantage of that situation."

Said Koivu: "I was close to Kolzig, there's no doubt, but that's where I always play. ... It's possible that my stick was there somehow, interfering him. I hope it was the right call, because that would have been 2-2. Then, two minutes later, it was 4-1, so that was the turning point for the whole game."

Washington was ahead 2-1 thanks to Zubrus' two goals within 2 1/2 minutes -- both with help from Ovechkin -- when Montreal thought it tied the game 7:18 into the second period on a power play.

But the apparent goal was waved off because Koivu was whistled for interference. Washington proceeded to pad its lead during the ensuing 4-on-4, when Ovechkin found Lawrence Nycholat all alone near the left post for a tap-in at the 7:52 mark. As that goal was being announced less than a minute later, the Capitals went up 4-1 when Boyd Gordon's shot was saved by Cristobal Huet but the rebound went right to Semin.

That was it for Huet, who was pulled and cracked his stick across his knee after leaving the ice. Huet came into the game leading the NHL with a .930 save percentage, but he allowed four goals on 19 shots before giving way to David Aebischer.

"There really was no reason, no excuse, why we weren't able to stay with it after we were in the game right at the beginning," Montreal's Sheldon Souray said. "We were soft. Not one or two guys -- everybody."

The Capitals, meanwhile, were relieved to end their recent slide, which has coincided with Ovechkin's goal-scoring slump.

Still, he reached the season's midway mark with 54 points, three more than a year ago. As a whole, the Capitals have shown even more improvement, reaching the halfway mark at .500 (17-17-7). A year ago, they were 10 games under .500 through 41 games.

"Our challenge here isn't to play .500," Capitals coach Glen Hanlon said. "Our test now seems to be to take it to the next notch. That's what we're working on. At times, I feel like we're better than a .500 hockey club, and at other times I think we have to play our absolute best to reach that."

Notes: Zubrus reached 16 goals this season and 200 points with the Capitals, a team he joined in a trade from Montreal during 2000-01. ... When Zubrus scored a career-high 23 goals last season, he didn't get No. 16 until March 22, in Washington's 68th game. This was his fourth multiple-goal game of 2006-07, twice as many as in all of 2005-06. ... Ovechkin was sent off for a 4-minute penalty for high-sticking late in the first period and Washington managed to kill it off against Montreal's NHL-best power play. ... Koivu was held off the scoresheet and still needs one point for 500 in the NHL.

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