WASHINGTON - Inspired by the return of Sergei Fedorov and Mike Green - or perhaps by the presence of a six-foot-seven website producer sitting on the bench as an emergency backup goalie - the Washington Capitals maintained their home-ice dominance Friday night with a 5-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators.
Alexander Semin, Brooks Laich and Green all scored for the first time this month, Alex Ovechkin got his 16th and 17th goals of the season, and Brent Johnson made 32 saves for the Capitals. Johnson won his fourth straight decision as Washington improved to an Eastern Conference-best 12-1-1 at the Verizon Center.
The injury-riddled Capitals welcomed back forward Fedorov (three assists), who had missed 16 of 17 games because of a sprained ankle, and defenceman Green (goal, two assists), sidelined 11 games by a shoulder problem. Semin and defenceman Tom Poti returned from injury layoffs in the previous game, a win over Boston on Wednesday.
But no scenario was stranger than the series of events that led to the lanky Brett Leonhardt sitting on the bench in uniform during the first 10 minutes or so. Leonhardt, a Division III goalie in college and a Capitals website employee for about a year, signed an amateur tryout contract before the game after backup Jose Theodore injured a hip flexor during the morning shootaround.
If Leonhardt had actually played, he would have tied Ben Bishop of the St. Louis Blues as the tallest goalie ever to see action in an NHL game. Instead, Leonhardt simply became an instant celebrity.
"Every dream come true," Leonhardt said. "Growing up in Canada, playing since I was 4. It was just very surreal. It was a blur, went by real quick."
Leonhardt's brief career - for which he will receive no money - ended when Simeon Varlamov, recalled from AHL affiliate Hershey, arrived midway through the first period.
By then, the Capitals were already ahead. Less than four minutes into the game, Semin dragged the puck in front of the crease and scored on a backhand for his 14th goal and first since Nov. 12.
Laich showed signs of breaking his scoring slump by beating goalie Alex Auld on the glove side from high in the slot to make it 2-0 early in the second, his first goal since Nov. 20. Ovechkin's slap shot on the power play with 35 seconds left in the period gave the Capitals a three-goal lead.
The Senators, the lowest-scoring team in the NHL, fell apart as the game wore on. Green and Ovechkin scored power-play goals from nearly the same spot on the ice late in the third period.
Jesse Winchester prevented what would have been Ottawa's second shutout in a row when he scored with about 2 1/2 minutes to play.
While the various No. 2 goalies got lots of attention, Johnson continued to make his case to stay No. 1. Among his many saves was a stop on Antoine Vermette during a short-handed breakaway during the first period. Johnson already has nine wins, his most since the 2005-06 season.
Notes: Nicklas Backstrom had three assists for the Capitals. ... The five goals were the most allowed by Ottawa this season.