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Caps handle Sens -- again

by Brian Compton /
The Capitals improved to 3-0 on the season against the Eastern Conference leading Senators by defeating Ottawa 6-3 on Tuesday. 
Something about seeing the Ottawa Senators on the opposite end of the ice brings out the best in the Washington Capitals.
Mike Green scored twice and added an assist, and Olaf Kolzig made 31 saves for his 289th career victory as the Caps improved to 3-0 on the season against the cream of the Eastern Conference with a 6-3 win over the Senators at the Verizon Center on Tuesday.

Washington – which picked up a wild 8-6 win over Ottawa on Saturday night – wasted no time taking it to the Sens again. The Capitals scored four times in the opening period, as Green’s first tally of the day chased Martin Gerber – who has allowed 10 goals on 37 shots against Washington this season -- just 7:34 into the game ( 700K ).
With the victory, the Capitals improved to 16-9-5 on the season. They were just 6-14-1 when Bruce Boudreau replaced Glen Hanlon behind the bench.
''I think they're starting to believe a little bit in themselves, which is really good,'' Boudreau said.

''You look, not necessarily at our record, but at the fact that (when) other teams are scoring first we don't hang our heads, we just say ... we're going to score two or three.''
Such was the case on Tuesday, as Ottawa jumped out to a 2-0 lead less than five minutes into the contest. Chris Neil beat Kolzig on a breakaway at 1:54 ( 700K ), while Dean McAmmond put the Sens up by a pair at 4:46 ( 700K ).
But the Caps suddenly came to life and held a 3-2 lead less than three minutes later. Viktor Kozlov made it a 2-1 game with his first goal in almost two months at the 5:15 mark ( 700K ), and that was followed by goals from Michael Nylander (6:59) ( 700K ) and Green.

Brooks Laich gave the Caps a 4-2 lead prior to the end of the first period ( 700K ) when he managed to put a backhand shot from his knees past Ray Emery. Green busted the game open with a power play goal just 52 seconds into the second period ( 700K ).
''I think, with the win tonight, we're really starting to believe that we're a good hockey team,'' said Kolzig, who moved into 25th place on the NHL win list. ''But again, we dug ourselves such a big hole at the beginning of the season; we're just slowly but surely creeping our way back into things.''
Andrei Meszaros tried to give Ottawa some life when he scored 70 seconds into the third period ( 700K ), but the Sens failed to get any closer and had their fates sealed when Boyd Gordon notched an empty-net tally with 1:51 to play ( 700K ).
''You can tell they feel confident playing us,'' Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson said. ''I mean, you see them playing tonight, you'd think they would be at the top of the standings.''

Maple Leafs 4, Lightning 3, SO | Video
Scott Clemmensen’s opportunities in the NHL have been few and far between.
After spending three years in New Jersey as Martin Brodeur’s backup, Clemmensen signed with Toronto and was promptly sent to the American Hockey League.
But with Vesa Toskala sidelined due to a groin injury – combined with Andrew Raycroft’s recent struggles – Clemmensen got the starting nod on Tuesday night, his first in the NHL this season.
All the 30-year-old did was deny both Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis in the shootout, as the Maple Leafs handed Tampa Bay its eighth loss in nine games. Tomas Kaberle and Mats Sundin scored in the breakaway session for Toronto, which won its first shootout in four tries this season.
Six months earlier in New Jersey, Clemmensen came out on the losing end of a shootout that sent the New York Islanders to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Had the Devils beaten the Isles on that Sunday afternoon, the Maple Leafs would have reached the postseason.
''It's unbelievable,'' Clemmensen said. ''It's a shootout win about six months too late, but we got it. I know that Leafs fans were rooting for me at the end of last year and I hope that they'll continue to root for me now that I'm actually wearing the sweater.''
How much longer he’ll be wearing the Maple Leafs’ sweater remains to be seen. Toskala is currently listed as doubtful for Thursday night’s game at Pittsburgh.
''I've been around the block too long to know how this goes here,'' Clemmensen said. ''Vesa's clearly the No. 1 guy here. That's for sure; it's not debatable right now. A lot of things can happen and those things are way out of my reach and out of my control.''
Tampa Bay got on the board first when Andreas Karlsson beat Clemmensen 13:29 into the game ( 700K ). With the teams at even strength, Karlsson took a nice feed from Jan Hlavac and swatted it past Clemmensen as the Lightning took a 1-0 lead.
Playing on the Leafs’ top line for the first time in over a month, Jason Blake tied the game when he potted his sixth game of the season at the 3:23 mark of the second period ( 700K ). The speedy forward capitalized when he gained control of the puck at the side of the net, as he banked a shot off Tampa Bay goalie Karri Ramo to make it 1-1.
Blake also chipped in with two assists as he tries to regain the confidence that helped him score 40 goals last season with the Islanders.
''I don't want to look behind … I just want to look forward,'' Blake said.
Sundin gave the Leafs their first lead of the night at 9:39 of the second period ( 700K ). It was his team-leading 18th goal of the season, as he took a pass from Blake and flipped a shot over Ramo as Toronto held a 2-1 edge.
The teams continued to exchange goals, as Martin St. Louis tied the game for the Lightning less than a minute later ( 700K ). But Hal Gill regained the lead for the Leafs with 2:33 to play ( 700K ) in the second when his shot from the point beat a screened Clemmensen.
Toronto tightened up defensively in the third and seemed to be moments away from a victory. But Paul Ranger silenced the Air Canada Centre crowd with just 40.3 seconds remaining ( 700K ), when his shot found its way through and past Clemmensen to make it 3-3.
After a scoreless overtime, Clemmensen came up huge in the shootout. After Vincent Lecavalier scored in Round 1, the Toronto netminder shut the door on Richards and St. Louis as the Maple Leafs picked up two valuable points.
Perhaps Martin Brodeur gave him a few pointers?
''He has a certain veteran presence about him,'' Toronto coach Paul Maurice said. ''He looks like he has been in an NHL dressing room for a while -- and he has. He looks like he's been involved in some big games -- and he has.

''He looks like he's learned from the best - and he has.''
In the end, Lightning coach John Tortorella felt his team could have used more from its three big guns – Lecavalier, Richards and St. Louis.
''Our top players have to play better, they have to step up,'' Tortorella said. ''Our third and fourth lines played well, but our top two lines were outplayed by their top players. Their top guys outplayed our top guys ... that's why you walk away with one point and not two.''

Kings 9, Blackhawks 2 | Video

The Los Angeles Kings enjoyed an offensive outburst as they blitzed the Chicago Blackhawks 9-2 for their third straight win. 
It’s no secret the role that special teams can play on any given night.
On Tuesday, it guided Los Angeles to its third straight win.
Ladislav Nagy had a career night with three goals and two assists, and the Kings scored five times on the power play as they rang in 2008 with a bang and completed a home-and-home series sweep of Chicago.
Their nine goals were the most they’ve tallied in a game since 1995 – when they pummeled the New York Islanders by the same score at the old Great Western Forum.
“The power play was working hard and everything was going in tonight,” Nagy said. “It was a great win for us. Everybody’s playing better.”
Alexander Frolov (two goals, three assists) also had a five-point night for the Kings, who have turned things around nicely following an eight-game losing streak. Things could continue to roll around for L.A., considering Tuesday was the first of a six-game homestand. The Kings – who outscored the Blackhawks 5-0 over the final two periods -- host Columbus on Thursday night.
“I don’t expect this with this group, to tell you the truth,” Chicago coach Denis Savard said. “I’m disappointed in the fact that we didn’t compete the way we could after the fifth goal. We’ll address that for sure because that’s unacceptable.”
Chicago netminder Nikolai Khabibulin was chased from his net after Nagy’s second goal of the first period, which came 15:35 into the frame ( 700K ), and gave Los Angeles a 4-2 lead. Patrick Lalime didn’t fare much better, as he allowed five goals on 17 shots. Khabibulin made only five saves for the Blackhawks, who continue their three-game road trip on Thursday night at Phoenix.
To make matters worse, rookie center Jonathan Toews suffered a sprained left knee in the first period and did not return. His status for Thursday night is unknown.
Chicago’s Patrick Sharp scored his 20th goal of the season ( 700K ) in the loss, which matches a career high. Martin Lapointe also scored for the Blackhawks ( 700K ).
“It was just an off night for everybody,” Savard said. “Lots of guys not playing to their potential, and we made a lot of mistakes. We had a pretty good start, a good first period and we were down 4-2, but with the fifth goal we just gave up. We just didn’t battle as hard as we could have and should have, and the result is pretty simple.”   

Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.

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