Caps are going to be GR8

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:26 AM ET

Capitals 1

Senators 0

Dubbed Alexander The GR8 in Washington mostly for his scoring exploits in his first year as a Capital, the best rookie in the NHL was in an obviously terrific mood at about 10 last night.

Alexander Ovechkin wasn't able to get any closer to the 50-goal plateau -- he remains at 48 -- but his team had just knocked off the Senators in a 1-0 pitcher's duel, and the Washington winger was walking outside the dressing room high-fiving teammates and trainers and singing along to the tunes blaring from a boom box.

"We played really hard, it was a big win for our team," said Ovechkin. "We win, and that's important for us. We have nine games left and we want to try and win five or six. I hope this is a beginning."

The Caps beat Carolina twice in the last week and have now grabbed at least one point in their last five games, but they remain 14th in the conference with 60 points, which is 45 fewer than the Senators.

Listening to Ovechkin, closing that gap between first and (one of the) worst is all that's important to him.

"I don't feel pressure (to get No. 50)," he said. "I had lots of moments (last night), and I didn't score. There's lots of time. If I score 50, I'll be happy. If not, I'm happy I scored 48. I think when you win, you feel more comfortable than when you score goals and lose."

With Ovechkin on their side, the Capitals' comfort zone will only get bigger and bigger.

Starts and Stops:

Washington G Brent Johnson declared last night's shutout one of the biggest in his career. "Not including playoffs, this one ranks right up there," he said. He also displayed surprise at how quickly Daniel Alfredsson gets his shot away. The Senators captain hit the post once and was robbed by Johnson on another chance. "That's just the way it goes," said Alfredsson. "We had our chances, Johnson played well. The effort was there." Dany Heatley, who had nine shots on goal, was asked if Johnson was more lucky or good. "He played well," said Heatley. "I think it was a combination of both." ... Is former Pembroke Lumber King Dainius Zubrus called "Darius" anywhere else other than Scotiabank Place? The error is allowed to be made every time the Caps forward visits.

Between Periods:

With all the injuries, two players unaccustomed to wearing an 'A' on their jersey in Ottawa are getting a chance to do so. They are 901-NHL game veteran Bryan Smolinski and 173-NHL game veteran Brian Pothier ... This, from trivia whiz Ian "Lenny" Mendes of Sportsnet: When Panthers backup G Jamie McLennan picked up his first win of 2005-06 this week, it ended any chance of Roberto Luongo picking up all his team's victories this season. When was the last time a goalie turned that trick, over a non-shortened campaign? Answer below, and count on it having a Ottawa-Washington tie-in.

Things That Make You Go Hmmm:

One of the closest calls around the Ottawa net through two periods was a long, easy shot by Steve Eminger that Christoph Schubert deflected in the high slot. The puck suddenly switched directions from the path Ray Emery expected it to take, and bounced just past the post to the end boards ... Chris Phillips was not only at the game but behind the Caps bench last night. That is, the Chris Phillips who works as the Capitals assistant athletic trainer ... Meanwhile, there's no sign of the Phillips that plays defence for the Senators around the dressing room these days. While he rehabs a sprained knee, his nameplate has come down and is stall is being used by call-up Brad Norton. Wonder if he had to move out of his house, too?

Butt Ends:

In the 1974-75 NHL season, current Senators goalie coach Ron Low had all eight Washington wins. In the lockout shortened 1994-95 season, Kirk McLean posted all 18 wins for the Canucks ... Notice Brandon Bochenski scored his first goal as a Blackhawk last night? Tyler Arnason, Alfredsson's centre, is still looking for his first as a Senator.

The Finish Line:

During the pre-game show on the Team 1200, sidekick Chris Stevenson had this to say about the reaction of the Senators and Dominik Hasek to yesterday's Sun story suggesting the team's injured star goalie could be done for the season. "If the intention of the hastily called press conference was to defuse the situation," said C.J., "the Dominator didn't get the memo."

DON.BRENNAN@OTT.SUNPUB.COM


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