for this game

Capitals top Hurricanes, pull into tie atop division

Apr 2, 2008 - 3:54 AM
By Tim Hipps PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

WASHINGTON (Ticker) - The winner of the NHL's Southeast Division will go through the Sunshine State, but the title will be decided in the nation's capital and Raleigh, North Carolina.

Cristobal Huet made 21 saves, Alex Ovechkin scored his league-leading 63rd goal for his league-leading 110th point, and the Washington Capitals pulled into a tie atop the Southeast Division with a convincing 4-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday.

The Capitals have home games remaining against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday and the Florida Panthers on Saturday. The Hurricanes also have two home games left - against Tampa Bay on Wednesday and Florida on Friday.

"We have to win games," Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette said. "They're playing well. You have to assume they will win both of theirs. We have to win both of ours."

Should that happen, Carolina would capture the division crown by virtue of more victories.

The red-hot Capitals have won five in a row and nine of their last 10 games, including a 5-1-0 road trip. This is their first five-game winning streak since March 3-11, 2001.

Ovechkin capped the dominant display with a one-timer from the left circle that sailed over the glove of goaltender Cam Ward with 3:36 remaining in the third period.

Rookie Nicklas Backstrom notched his 53rd assist of the season on the play. Twenty-one players have assisted on Ovechkin's goals this season, led by Backstrom with 21.

Ovechkin's goal elicited chants of "MVP! MVP! MVP!" from the sellout crowd of 18,277 at the Verizon Center.

"When we got the fourth one, you could breathe easier," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I thought he struggled a little bit with his offensive touch tonight. He had opportunities but the puck was bouncing on him or he was making an extra pass. It just goes to show that you can't let up on that man for one second."

Huet, who is 9-2-0 with the Capitals since being acquired from Montreal on February 26, has won his last seven starts.

"We have two more games that are going to be tough to win," Huet said. "Not everything is in our hands, yet. We just have to do our job and continue playing the way we did the last two weeks.

"Tonight was a big win. They are a tough team to play against. To be with them at 90 points and to put pressure on the other teams is huge. Tonight was a turning-point game. Without this win, we would pretty much be out."

Alexander Semin, Brooks Laich and Matt Cooke also scored for the Capitals, who received two assists apiece from Sergei Fedorov and defenseman Mike Green.

Semin's power-play goal gave the Capitals a 3-1 lead with 5:32 remaining in the second period, thanks to Green, who made the play possible. The blue-liner fired a shot from the right circle that bounced off the pads of Ward.

Green spun around, spotted the puck behind him, regrouped and launched a pass to Semin, who was stationed just to the left of Carolina's goal. Semin caught the puck between his legs, dropped it to the ice and stuffed it past Ward.

"You have to respect other teams' power plays and what they bring to the table," Hurricanes defensemen Glen Wesley said. "In order for us to have success, we're a very good forechecking team. We didn't do that with consistency, because any time we tried to get something going, we'd end up in the box."

The Capitals are 26-1-2 when leading after two periods.

Laich charged the net on a power play, took a feed from Tomas Fleischmann and beat Ward glove side for his 24th goal of the season that gave Washington a 2-0 lead with 59 seconds remaining in the first period.

Cooke gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead with his 10th goal of the season off a rebound with five minutes remaining in the first period. Fedorov fed Green, who fired a shot from the point and Cooke was there to slip the puck past Ward, who started in Carolina's goal for the 18th consecutive game.

"I have to give credit to Semin," Cooke said. "Alex went in, all by himself, created the turnover with a body check, got the puck and was able to get it out front. As soon as I saw him get it to Greener, I started talking him through it. I told him it didn't have to be hard, just to get it there and we'll do the rest. I was able to tip it and get the rebound."

Ward, who made 35 saves, dropped to 4-1-1 against the Capitals this season.

Scott Walker scored the Hurricanes' goal at 2:38 of the second period off assists from Bret Hedican and Ryan Bayda.

Tuesday's game was the first of Carolina's 18th of 18 back-to-back sets this season, thus they'll get no rest before taking the ice against the Lightning. The Hurricanes are 6-9-2 in the second half of those sets.

"We just need to move on," Carolina left wing Erik Cole said. "We've got a game tomorrow night. We've got two games left in the season, both at home, and we need to win them both."

The Capitals, on the other skate, have a day off before each of their last two tilts. Washington has won four straight games at Verizon Center and allowed only five goals in those four games.

Should they get into the playoffs, the Capitals would become the first team in NHL history to reach the postseason after standing in 14th place at the midpoint of the season.

"The atmosphere is great," Green said. "I have never seen the building like that. It is great to see, and I hope the fans here enjoy it, but as a group, collectively, we haven't done anything yet and we know how important these next few games are."








  • NHL
    FINAL 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    CAROLINA 0 1 0 1
    WASHINGTON 2 1 1 4 FINAL
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: WAS - MATT COOKE 10 (MIKE GREEN, SERGEI FEDOROV) 15:00
    WAS - (PP) BROOKS LAICH 21 (TOMAS FLEISCHMANN, VIKTOR
    KOZLOV) 19:01
    2ND PRD: CAR - SCOTT WALKER 13 (BRET HEDICAN, RYAN BAYDA) 2:38
    WAS - (PP) ALEXANDER SEMIN 25

    Apr 1 9:44 PM


  • NHL
    CAROLINA 1
    WASHINGTON 4
    3RD PRD: WAS - ALEX OVECHKIN 63 (NICKLAS BACKSTROM, JEFF SCHULTZ)
    16:24

    Hurricanes 1, Capitals 4  3rd - 3:36Apr 1 9:35 PM


  • NHL
    END OF THE 2ND 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    CAROLINA 0 1 1
    WASHINGTON 2 1 3 END OF THE 2ND
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: WAS - MATT COOKE 10 (MIKE GREEN, SERGEI FEDOROV) 15:00
    WAS - (PP) BROOKS LAICH 21 (TOMAS FLEISCHMANN, VIKTOR
    KOZLOV) 19:01
    2ND PRD: CAR - SCOTT WALKER 13 (BRET HEDICAN, RYAN BAYDA) 2:38
    WAS - (PP) ALEXAN

    Apr 1 8:42 PM


  • NHL
    CAROLINA 1
    WASHINGTON 3
    2ND PRD: WAS - (PP) ALEXANDER SEMIN 25 (MIKE GREEN, SERGEI FEDOROV)
    14:28

    Hurricanes 1, Capitals 3  2nd - 5:32Apr 1 8:33 PM


  • NHL
    CAROLINA 1
    WASHINGTON 2
    2ND PRD: CAR - SCOTT WALKER 13 (BRET HEDICAN, RYAN BAYDA) 2:38

    Hurricanes 1, Capitals 2  2nd - 17:22Apr 1 8:09 PM


  • NHL
    END OF THE 1ST 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    CAROLINA 0 0
    WASHINGTON 2 2 END OF THE 1ST
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: WAS - MATT COOKE 10 (MIKE GREEN, SERGEI FEDOROV) 15:00
    WAS - (PP) BROOKS LAICH 21 (TOMAS FLEISCHMANN) 19:01
    SHOTS ON GOAL: 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    CAR 6 6
    WAS

    Apr 1 7:45 PM


  • NHL
    CAROLINA 0
    WASHINGTON 2
    1ST PRD: WAS - (PP) BROOKS LAICH 21 (TOMAS FLEISCHMANN) 19:01

    Hurricanes 0, Capitals 2  1st - 0:59Apr 1 7:45 PM


  • NHL
    CAROLINA 0
    WASHINGTON 1
    1ST PRD: WAS - MATT COOKE 10 (MIKE GREEN, SERGEI FEDOROV) 15:00

    Hurricanes 0, Capitals 1  1st - 5:00Apr 1 7:37 PM
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