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Ovechkin scores, gets ejected in Capitals' triumph over Sabres

Dec 3, 2006 - 4:01 AM WASHINGTON (Ticker) -- Washington Capitals fans saw two sides of Alexander Ovechkin against the Buffalo Sabres.

Ovechkin used blinding speed and finesse to score a goal before getting ejected from the game early in the second period for a hit from behind in the Capitals' 7-4 triumph over the Buffalo Sabres.

The Capitals started fast, scoring three times in the first 7:45 of the first period for a comfortable 3-0 lead. Ovechkin netted the third goal when he stole the puck from Maxim Afinogenov, skated in alone on Ryan Miller and snapped a shot over the goaltender's glove for his 17th tally of the season.

However, Ovechkin drilled Daniel Briere from behind at 4:52 of the second period and was assessed a five-minute boarding major and game misconduct. Briere crashed head-first into the boards and laid on the ice for several minutes but returned for his next shift.

"Yeah, I think it was, but it's part of the game," Briere responded when asked if he considered the hit a cheap shot. "It's not the first time it happened, it's not the last. I think I probably have to do a better job at protecting myself. I'm taking some of the blame, too, on that play. (The score was) 5-1, and sometimes you relax too much.

"The thing I liked about it was, it gave us a chance to come back in the game. I wish he could have paid a little more for it and that it could have cost him on that play. It's part of the game."

Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff believes Ovechkin's hit warrants a suspension.

"Oh, I do," he said. "I feel that way. Danny Briere's back was turned. He was ran from behind at least two or three seconds after he moved the puck. He was defenseless.

"He went head-first into the boards. We don't need those plays in the game. That's a decision the league will make. If you knock a Briere or an Ovechkin out of the lineup on a hit like that, you're losing one of your elite players in the league."

Ovechkin entered with only 10 penalty minutes in 25 games this season after only collecting 52 in 81 contests as a rookie in 2005-06.

"I try to give some hits, but I had big speed," Ovechkin said. "(Briere) just turned and I just hit him. I didn't want to give him an injury. It was an accident. It was just a hit. I wanted to hit him clean, but he just turned around. I didn't have time to go back. He just took the hit."

Matt Pettinger scored twice while Richard Zednik, Ben Clymer and defensemen Bryan Muir and John Erskine also tallied for the Capitals, who received a 26-save performance from Olaf Kolzig.

"It's huge," Pettinger said of the victory. "We kind of slowed there in the third and we made it interesting, but the bottom line is, we won the hockey game, and that's three big, big wins against three very good hockey teams."

Kolzig had made 48 saves in a 5-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday and 35 more in Thursday's 4-3 triumph over the Dallas Stars.

Derek Roy, Chris Drury, Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford scored for the Sabres, who entered with a 4.05 goals-per-game average - the highest in the NHL.

Vanek, the fifth overall selection in the 2003 draft, has 17 goals in 26 games this season after netting 25 in 81 games last campaign.

Miller, who surrendered three goals on nine shots, was replaced by Martin Biron after Ovechkin's tally. Biron recorded 15 saves.

The Sabres, who defeated the New York Rangers on Friday, fell to 5-2-0 in the second game of back-to-back contests.

"You have to look at the schedule and you have to make hay when the sun shines," Washington coach Glen Hanlon said. "We caught (Buffalo) back-to-back, which helps, but we're trying to be an exciting team like them. It's something we're striving for."

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