Playing Russian roulette

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:35 AM ET

WASHINGTON -- The scoresheet will show Alex Ovechkin sunk the Calgary Flames last night with the type of standout performance fans in the U.S. capital have come to expect.

Reading between the lines, the Flames know they shoot themselves in the foot.

Alexander the Gr8 showed why he's the odds-on favourite to haul home a collection of NHL hardware at season's end with another two-goal performance in his team's 3-2 victory.

The visiting Flames simply gave the young star too many opportunities to hurt them.

Given a chance to build a lead on the pack in the chase for the Northwest Division crown, the Flames instead took one penalty after another until it finally cost them.

"We played well for 20 minutes -- the first 20 minutes," said Flames coach Mike Keenan. "It's a frustrating group because we get satisfied pretty easily. And we took undisciplined penalties and just didn't work in the last 40 minutes.

"In the situation we're in, with the opportunity to come away with at least a point, we really didn't deserve more than we ended up getting."

Instead of notching a win against a team clinging to its playoff hopes, the Flames were checked off Ovechkin's to-do list of teams he hadn't scored against. Just three remain.

"These games are ones we've got to have and we should be up for these," defenceman Cory Sarich said. "Got a 2-1 lead, you've got to find a way to get the job done. There are no excuses."

For more than half the game, Calgary's special teams were poised to be the difference.

Jarome Iginla and Kristian Huselius both scored powerplay goals, giving Calgary the lead after Viktor Kozlov put the homeside up early with a tally in the first minute before the announced crowd of 17,560 at the Verizon Center.

Then the stream to the sin bin began, almost as if the visitors wanted to play a game of chicken once the tilt reached the midway point.

First it was Dion Phaneuf sent for holding.

Then Matthew Lombardi for hooking.

Finally, Huselius was fingered for slashing.

During his stay in the penalty box, Ovechkin had a bounding puck hop right on his stick and rifled a slapper top-shelf.

"He's pretty impressive, a really good player -- a great player -- with an amazing shot," Iginla said.

"Look at tonight -- one puck bounces his way on the powerplay and, to tie it up, he puts it under the bar."

When Owen Nolan was flagged for high sticking in the waning minutes of the third period -- the fifth straight infraction called against the Flames -- Ovechkin tallied his 56th of the season to ice the game. It was his 11th shot of the contest.

"He's had a lot of great nights and tonight he was the difference," Iginla said.

As for the Flames, they mustered only two shots in the third period.

"They were desperate and more hungry than we showed in the third," Iginla said. "They got us going back for pucks, and then we stopped having any kind of puck control.

"We just kept giving it to them all over the ice and they kept picking it up and coming right back at us."

Washington goalie Olie Kolzig stopped 24 shots to record the 300th victory of his career for the Caps (33-30-8).

Calgary meets the Atlanta Thrashers tonight in the second game of its four-game road swing.


Videos

Photos