OTTAWA – The Washington Capitals wanted to give the Ottawa Senators a challenge. What they handed the league’s best team was a sound thrashing.
“We just didn’t want to go on the ice and give them two easy points,” said Capitals’ star Alex Ovechkin, who had a goal and an assist in Washington’s 4-1 victory over the red-hot Senators.
Viktor Kozlov scored once and set up two goals in a second-period outburst that cooled off Ottawa before a crowd of 19,666 at sold-out Scotiabank Place.
The loss stopped the Senators’ franchise-record eight-game win streak while putting an end to a four-game losing streak for the Capitals (6-9-1), who entered the night in last place in the Eastern Conference while Ottawa was No. 1 overall in the league.
“This could be a turning point, maybe not for the whole team, but maybe for the young kids,” Capitals coach Glen Hanlon said.
“It’s hard to keep telling the guys they’ve done well until they see points in the standings.”
The Senators, who hadn’t lost since dropping a 5-3 home decision to Carolina on Oct. 11, had plenty of chances but struggled to beat Washington netminder Olaf Kolzig, who stopped 27 shots in the victory.
Ottawa went 0-for-5 on the power play, including a two-man advantage that lasted more than a minute in the second period. The Capitals went 1-for-4 with the man advantage, getting the eventual winner from Swedish rookie Nicklas Backstrom as Washington scored three times in a 5:45 stretch of the second period to seize control.
“I don’t think we took them lightly at all,” Senators left-winger Dany Heatley said. “They skated well. We didn’t finish our power-play chances and we took too many penalties.”
Senators coach John Paddock was less than impressed with his team’s outing.
“We weren’t good enough in most areas, if not all areas,” he said. “When you’re that, you’re not going to win.”
It was the first NHL goal for Backstrom. Tomas Fleischmann also scored for the Capitals and Michael Nylander chipped in with two assists.
Daniel Alfredsson replied for the Senators (13-2-0) while Ray Emery stopped 31 shots in the loss.
“Kolzig played really well,” Alfredsson said. “The game was up for grabs, we get a 5-on-3 on them and we didn’t take control. They scored first and they did.”
Washington had dropped six of its previous seven contests. The Capitals’ last victory came during its previous trip to Canada – a 7-1 blowout of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Oct. 29.
Thursday night was the first time the high-powered Senators’ offence had been held to less than two goals on the season.
“I’m not going to lie to you – I was lucky a few times,” Kolzig said.
“Heatley fanned on one one-timer and they had me swimming there when it was 5-on-3 and I made a couple of saves. Those are the bounces you need when you want to get out of a slump.”
The Senators were missing top centre Jason Spezza for the fifth straight game because of a groin injury. Meanwhile, the Capitals were without a couple of important pieces as wingers Alexander Semin (ankle) and Chris Clark (ear
laceration) missed their sixth and seventh straight games, respectively.
Emery was starting in place of Martin Gerber for the first time in four games and it was just his third start of the season. The night did not go well for him.
After a scoreless first period, Kozlov fought off the check of Wade Redden and deked Emery to make it 1-0 at the 12:10 mark.
The Capitals doubled the lead on the power play at 14:27 on a kind bounce off Emery that was swatted in by Backstrom.
Fleischmann made it 3-0 at 17:55, but Alfredsson put Ottawa on the board 54 seconds later.
Ovechkin sealed things when he slipped a shot through Emery’s pads on a 2-on-1 break with 3:45 to play.
“It’s a great feeling for us,” Ovechkin said. “We beat a great team.”
Notes: The Senators had a scare when defenceman Anton Volchenkov was hit in the leg with a shot late in the first period. He left the game but isn’t expected to miss any more time. … Fisher was appearing in his 400th career game for Ottawa. a The Senators came into the game with a record of 11-3-1-1 in the past 16 contests versus Washington. … Ottawa is home to Montreal on Saturday. … The Capitals return home to face Tampa Bay on Saturday. … Washington is 6-1-1 when Kozlov records at least one point.