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Postgame Notebook, 3-1-08

by Mike Vogel / Washington Capitals
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Two-Man Trouble, Again – With the score even at 1-1 midway through the second period, the Caps were beneficiaries of a brief two-man advantage (22 seconds in duration), their 16th such manpower edge this season. Washington coach Bruce Boudreau called a timeout so he could keep his top power play unit on the ice.

“We wanted to make sure everyone was doing what they’re supposed to be doing,” said Boudreau. “We haven’t practiced a 5-on-3 power play with [newly acquired forward] Sergei [Fedorov] yet.”

Fedorov won the ensuing offensive zone draw from Toronto’s Mats Sundin, and the Caps worked the puck around until Alexander Semin parked at the far post. He had a glorious open net chance to convert a cross-crease pass but fanned on the bid and the score remained knotted at 1-1.

Toronto killed the last few seconds of the two-man advantage and the 5-on-4 without incident. Forty seconds later, Sundin scored his 29th goal of the season to give the Leafs a lead they would not relinquish.

Washington has had 15:07 in two-man advantage time this season, but has scored just once, tied for the fewest in the NHL.

Back-to-Back Broken –
Saturday’s game marked the first time the Caps have dropped a game in the second of back-to-back contests since Boudreau took over the reins on Nov. 22. Washington is now 7-1-2 in the second of back-to-back games under Boudreau, and 8-5-3 in such situations on the season.

The Capitals have two more sets of back-to-back tilts ahead of them over their final 16 games of the season.

Back on the Beam –
Caps left wing Alex Ovechkin ended a seven-game goal drought – the longest of his NHL career – with a first period goal against Toronto’s Vesa Toskala. The goal was Ovechkin’s 49th of the season.

Ovechkin and Semin have combined for 69 goals in 66 games, the most of any duo of NHL teammates. Ottawa’s Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson (68 goals) are second.

Mixing it Up – Heading into Saturday night’s contest with the Leafs, the Caps had used three different starting goaltenders in their last three games, and they allowed a total of three goals in those three games.

Prior to this week, the last time the Capitals had three different starting goaltenders in as many games was Nov. 8-12, 2005 when Olie Kolzig, Frederic Cassivi and Brent Johnson faced Toronto, New Jersey and New Jersey, respectively. The Caps lost all three of those games and surrendered a total of 13 goals in the process. 

The three goals in three games is the fewest allowed by Washington in a three-game span since they surrendered just two goals in the first three games of the 2007-08 season.

Kolzig started Saturday’s game, bidding for the 299th win of his NHL career. Kolzig is the last Caps goalie to start consecutive games; he got the nod in three straight from Feb. 16-23.

44 In – Caps defenseman Steve Eminger saw action in a third straight game on Saturday night, marking just the second time this season he has dressed for more than two consecutive contests.

Eminger played in five straight games from Jan. 21-31, and has played in just 16 of Washington’s 66 contests this season. He is plus-2 in his current three-game stretch.

French Connection – It has been widely reported that Caps goaltender Cristobal Huet is just the second French-born player to ascend to the NHL. While Huet may be the second French-born and trained player to reach the NHL, he has a bit more company when it comes to players born in France.

Ex-Winnipeg winger Patrick Daley was born in Maryville, France, and he finished his playing career by playing three seasons with Rouen in the country where he was born.

Paul MacLean is another Winnipeg winger who had a bit more NHL staying power; he had eight 30-goal seasons in the league and eclipsed the 40-goal level three times. MacLean, currently an assistant coach with the Detroit Red Wings, was born in Grostenquin, France.

St. Louis winger Phillipe Bozon spent a few seasons with the Blues, and he also played in the French, German and Swiss Leagues during his pro career. Active as recently as 2005-06 in the Swiss League, Bozon was born in Chamoniz, France.

The other two of the five French-born NHLers both played here in the District for the Capitals. Huet is the only active French-born player in the league, and he hails from St. Martin D’Heres. He is the only one of the five who is a goaltender.

Way back in Washington’s inaugural season of 1974-75, the Caps briefly employed a diminutive forward named Andre Peloffy. Peloffy got into nine games with Washington that season, including the team’s first-ever game at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 9, 1974.

Those nine games were the sum of Peloffy’s NHL career, but he also had a short stint in the World Hockey Association. Peloffy won the AHL scoring title in 1976-77 with Springfield and played professionally in Austria and France

Division Daze – Saturday’s loss to the Leafs dropped the Caps to 6-1-2 in their last nine games outside the Southeast Division. Washington will play eight of its next nine games against non-divisional foes before finishing up the campaign with seven straight against Southeast teams.

On This Day in NHL History – Ex-Cap Joe Sacco netted the first goal of his NHL career on this date in 1992. Sacco scored for the Maple Leafs against the Minnesota North Stars.

Happy Birthday –
To ex-Caps center Brian Sutherby, born on this date in 1982. Also to a trio of ex-Maple Leafs: Hockey Hall of Famer Allan Stanley (1926), Pat Boutette (1952) and Hockey Hall of Famer Ron Francis (1963).

Down on the Farm – Hershey’s nine-game road odyssey continued on Saturday night when the Bears visited Copps Coliseum in Hamilton for the third game of the trip. The game was a rematch of the 2007 Calder Cup finals between the Bears and the Bulldogs.

The Bears dug themselves an early hole on Saturday night, falling into a 2-0 ditch just 6:17 into the first period. Hershey started on the comeback trail midway through the first when Andrew Gordon bagged his 12th goal of the season on a Bears power play. Josef Boumedienne (who has at least a point in 20 of his last 21 games) and Sami Lepisto assisted.

With just 1:30 left in the second period, newly reacquired Alexandre Giroux scored on the power play to draw the Bears even heading into the final frame. Lepisto and Scott Barney assisted.

Ex-Caps defenseman Mathieu Biron put the Bulldogs ahead with his fourth goal of the season midway through the final frame, and his tally stood up as the game-winner in a 3-2 Hamilton triumph.

Daren Machesney made 28 saves in goal for the Bears.

The loss leaves Hershey in third place in the AHL’s East Division. Philadelphia leads with 81 points, followed by Albany with 72, the Bears with 70, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with 67, Bridgeport with 66 and Binghamton with 63.

Hershey plays in Toronto against the Marlies on Sunday.

Down a level, the South Carolina Stingrays got on the board first when Pierre-Luc O’Brien scored on a power play at 13:48 of the first period. But the Rays then surrendered five unanswered goals to divisional rival Columbia and went on to a 6-3 setback. Travis Morin had a goal and an assist to lead the Stingrays.

The Stingrays dropped two straight this weekend, falling to the front-running Texas Wildcatters on Friday night. South Carolina is now tied for second place in the ECHL’s South Division with 73 points.

The Stingrays host Augusta on Sunday at North Charleston Coliseum.

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