SUN Hockey Pool

Senators' D.C. follies

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:36 AM ET

WASHINGTON -- At this rate, maybe a front-office employee actually could beat the Senators.

A "Shooter Tuter" might stand a decent chance, too.

The Senators' string of offensive futility extended to 154:07 before Jesse Winchester scored a meaningless goal to spoil Brent Johnson's bid for a shutout with 2:23 left in what would be a 5-1 loss to the Capitals at Verizon Center last night.

Injuries and travel inconvenience forced the home team to turn to a website producer as its backup goalie for most of the first period.

Johnson stopped 32 shots as the Senators' losing streak slipped to three games and they returned home from a two-game road trip with just one goal to claim at customs.

To make matters worse, the Senators lost defenceman Anton Volchenkov with a "lower-body" injury in the second period.

"It's nice to score," said Winchester, a rookie who picked up his third goal of the season. "But losing sucks."

The Lightning, tied for last in the NHL's overall standings, must have been licking its chops in anticipation as the Bolts watched this one from their Ottawa hotel a night after beating the Habs in Montreal.

"I thought for the first part of the game, we were doing some good things," said coach Craig Hartsburg, who wore a similar scowl to that of GM Bryan Murray and assistant GM Tim Murray following the game. "We had some chances, but we hit the post, hit the crossbar ... at the end of the second we should have been a lot closer.

"In the third, we ran into some penalties and their power play made us pay."

Alex Ovechkin had two goals to lead the Caps, who fired 34 pucks Alex Auld's way. Alexander Semin, Mike Green and Brooks Laich scored a goal apiece.

Nicklas Backstrom and Sergei Fedorov each had three assists for Washington.

The Senators, who are last in the NHL in goals scored, are on pace to finish with fewer than the 202 goals they had in their inaugural season. Hartsburg broke up the Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson line in the third trying to get something going. It didn't work.

"We need more guys," said Hartsburg, who praised the work of Winchester, Chris Kelly and Antoine Vermette. "We didn't have everybody going at their highest level.

"That (Spezza) line generated hardly any scoring chances in two games, 5-on-5."

Said Alfredsson: "We need to get things going. We were going in the right direction, then in the last two games we did not play well at all.

'BAD ROAD TRIP'

"It's a bad road trip for us."

Earlier in the day, Hartsburg knew what to expect that night.

"When you're good in your own building it's probably because you have really good starts," Hartsburg had said at the morning skate when the Capitals' now 12-1-1 record at the Verizon Center was mentioned. "The energy in the building, you can feel it right away."

Whether it was the crowd's doing or not, the Caps took a lead they would never relinquish at 3:55 of the first period when Semin walked around Jason Spezza en route to his 14th goal of the year.

The Senators failed on two power plays (Mike Fisher had the best of their chances when he was stopped point blank by Johnson on the second) before Washington's first man advantage, which came when a long Spezza pass sent Ovechkin in on a breakaway and Filip Kuba chose to hook the Caps star to the ice. The next two minutes were eventful. Vermette's agonizing slump continued when he was sent in on a short-handed breakaway by Chris Kelly. The deke-five-hole-stuff attempt didn't fool Johnson at all.

Moments later, Tom Poti beat Auld with a shot, only to hit the post.

The Caps enjoyed a 4-on-3 power play late in the first, but Ovechkin had three point shots blocked before they made it to the Ottawa net -- two by Volchenkov and one by Alfredsson.

An Ottawa connection gave the Caps a 2-0 lead early in the second period, when Stittsville native Matt Bradley drew an assist on the sixth goal of the season by former Senators prospect Laich.


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