Sens fire blanks at Caps

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:41 AM ET

Capitals 1

Senators 0

The Senators kept outstanding rookie Alexander Ovechkin from scoring a goal last night.

That's all well and good, but they didn't score any themselves and fell 1-0 to the Washington Capitals at Scotiabank Place.

Caps backup goaltender Brent Johnson made 46 saves and had a couple of shots ring off posts as he earned his first --and the Caps' first --shutout of the season and the 13th of his career.

It marked the fifth time the high-octane Senators offence has been blanked this season and the first time in 24 games.

"All in all, we've got to win that game," said Senators centre Jason Spezza, who zinged a puck off the post in the first period. "We had a lot of chances, but it just didn't want to go in for us? What did we have? Forty-six shots? Most nights when you have that many, you're going to win, especially when your goalie plays as well as Ray did (last night)."

That would be Ray Emery, who got a good piece of Dainius Zubrus' shot on the power play that trickled into the net for the only goal of the game.

On a day when the status of Senators injured goaltender Dominik Hasek was the big news (is he done for the year or isn't he?), the backups were the show last night.

The loss cost the Senators the chance to open more ground between themselves and the Carolina Hurricanes in the battle for top spot in the Eastern Conference. The 'Canes lost to the Atlanta Thrashers, leaving the gap between the themselves and the Senators at three points with the Senators still holding a game in hand.

The Caps might be in 14th place in the Eastern Conference, but they can be a tough out, especially with young Ovechkin, the favourite for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, running around.

"They're busting a gut lately," said Senators coach Bryan Murray, "and taking pride in upsetting better teams.

"They worked hard, but we still had a lot of shots and a fair number of chances. I've never seen us misfire so much. Either the puck bounced on them or they were too slow releasing it ... but I thought the kid (Johnson) played well. There were a lot of rebounds, but they helped him out."

In the absence of Senators stopper defenceman Zdeno Chara and the rest of the Big Three, Wade Redden and Chris Phillips, rookie Andrej Meszaros did a good job against Ovechkin.

"They got one on the power play and that's going to happen," said Emery, "but all night long, the guys were in (Ovechkin's) face, filling in for the big guy (Chara)."

Ovechkin remained stuck on 48 goals last night, but he still had an impact on the outcome.

He set up the only goal of the game with just 52.1 seconds left in the second period.

With Ottawa defenceman Christoph Schubert off for interference, Ovechkin got the puck near the top of the left-wing circle and let go a hard wrist shot which Emery stopped with a nice save. The rebound popped out to the edge of the crease where Zubrus, the former Pembroke Lumber King, took a shot, only to have Emery catch about 47% of it. It dribbled into the net for Zubrus' 18th of the season.

The assist was Ovechkin's 47th of the season and his 95th point.

Caps coach Glen Hanlon double- shifted Ovechkin, literally, sometimes changing his linemates and leaving the 20-year-old out there for two shifts in a row.

OVECHKIN A WORKHORSE

During the lone power play of the first period, which came with Ottawa's Vaclav Varada in the box, Ovechkin stayed on the ice for all but two seconds of it.

He went to go off the ice at one point, but was waved back by Hanlon.

The Senators' best chance on the night came during a 5-on-3 for 50 seconds in the second period, but the closest they came on that one was when Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson nuked a one-timer off the post behind Johnson. Senators winger Dany Heatley had a good chance on the power play in the third from the slot, but double-clutched and his point-blank shot deflected away.

The Senators, now losers of three of their last four games, host the Thrashers tomorrow night.

CHRIS.STEVENSON@OTT.SUNPUB.COM


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