Saturday, December 03, 2005

Ovechkin Puts End To Ranger Streak

Entering play, Capitals rookie Alexander Ovechkin hadn't scored in seven games. That changed in Saturday's 5-1 win over the Rangers at The MCI Center- snapping Washington's five-game losing streak. It also halted the Rangers' six-game win streak, who came crashing back to reality.

The 20-year-old Ovechkin was brilliant in scoring his rookie-leading 16th goal and setting up three others. With the Blueshirts not sharp, the talented former 2004 number one overall pick took advantage of a careless Ville Nieminen turnover to put the Caps ahead 1-0 12:11 into the contest. It was a hint of what was to come.

Despite outshooting Washington 10-9, the best chance New York had came shorthanded when Olie Kolzig shut the door on Blair Betts to keep his team ahead. When Dainius Zubrus took a pass from Ovechkin and beat Henrik Lundqvist from a sharp angle 4:12 later, it gave Washington a two-goal lead after one.

Skating without Martin Rucinsky- who sat out after not feeling comfortable in his return the other night- the Rangers got little done offensively the first half of the game. They also missed the energy of Ryan Hollweg, who missed the game with a facial contusion. Recently claimed Colton Orr skated in Hollweg's place to make his Ranger debut.

Things continued to go badly when Ovechkin went around Marek Malik, drawing three Rangers before setting up a wide open Steve Eminger for the Caps' third goal at 8:01 of the second.

Down three, New York tried to mount a comeback but were denied by Kolzig. Shutdown much of the night, the top line of Jaromir Jagr, Michael Nylander and Martin Straka generated their best shift of the game but Kolzig turned away Nylander and Jagr. He also stopped Jed Ortmeyer on the next shift.

With Washington on a late power play, Oveckin took matters into his own hands to put it out of reach. On a delayed penalty to Michal Rozsival which would have given his team a two-man advantage, he skated thru a maze of Ranger penalty killers to setup Jeff Halpern on the doorstep to make it 4-0 with 2:28 left in the second.

Off another Ranger turnover, Matt Pettinger made it 5-0 from the far left wing early in the third on a shaky Lundqvist. The rookie netminder was later replaced by former 2003 sixth round pick Chris Holt. Holt turned away both shots he faced in 10 minutes of work.

Having not been shutout all season, New York got a late five-on-three power play goal from Petr Prucha with less than two minutes remaining.

Kolzig finished with 37 saves while Lundqvist tied his season high of five allowed on just 21 shots before being pulled.

Notes: Tom Poti (groin) missed his second game in a row but is close to returning. ... Kevin Weekes skated in practice and might return Monday. ... Caps (9-15-2) improved to 7-1-2 in their last 10 home games against the Rangers. ... The loss was the first for New York since an identical 5-1 loss to Carolina November 17. ... Rangers (17-8-3) return home Monday to face Minnesota (10-11-4) before embarking on a four-day three-game road trip with stops at Chicago, Nashville and St. Louis.

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