WASHINGTON - Ottawa right wing Marian Hossa got the puck at the top of the slot and proceeded to destroy the Washington Capitals last night.
It was just 3:36 into the second period when Hossa, with space all around, fired through three Washington defenders to score a power-play goal that gave the Senators a three-goal lead on their way to a 6-2 victory.
The goal - giving Hossa a league-leading 12th straight game with at least a point - brought boos from the MCI Center crowd. It was part of a demolition of the Capitals, who at 10-12-2 have won just twice in nine games but were coming off a 4-2 victory against Calgary in which they had played their best hockey in some time.
That win came without top forwards Jaromir Jagr, Peter Bondra and Dainius Zubrus. Last night, with Jagr and Bondra back, the Caps had the opportunity to climb back to .500. Neither had a point.
Instead, Senators' goalie Patrick Lalime made 21 saves and enjoyed the evening watching his teammates take target practice at Olie Kolzig, sending 34 shots at the Washington goalie.
"The coaches talk about it before every game - play better defense," said Caps center Michael Nylander, who finally got Washington on the scoreboard midway through the third period. "Defense will win games. Shut teams down. You know we can win if we do that.
"We have to be accountable - me and everyone. Olie [Kolzig] has been unbelievable for us for so long. ... If we play better, he'll make sure we'll win. But our mistakes cost us games too many times."
Last night, the mistakes were abundant. The Senators (12-6-3), among the five best teams in the Eastern Conference, stretched their non-losing streak to nine games by doing all the things the Capitals don't.
They positioned themselves around the crease and got rebounds. And they put those rebounds in the net. When playing in their own zone, the Senators, for the most part, won the little battles and played determined defense. When it came to the power play, Ottawa was a perfect 3-for-3.
"Obviously, our team is playing well," Hossa said. "Everyone is on the same page. And our power play tonight was great. ... I haven't an answer for why Washington, with their great offensive players, can't create much offense."
It could be that Hossa had the answer. The Senators are on the same page, but the Capitals seem to be reading different parts of the playbook.
"It's a tough sell right now, but we have to have commitment away from the puck," Caps coach Bruce Cassidy said. "I've told our guys, in the scoring area, knock people down or tie up hands in front of the net. Ottawa's guys are not 6-5 and 240 pounds. We should be able to confront them. ... We have to be tougher to play against."
Kolzig was left to go it alone on penalty kills as his team failed to clear the puck time and again.
"It's been a problem all season," Cassidy said. "On that last power play, we had four chances to clear it with three different defensemen. Clear the puck. The first time, we fired it into the bench."
Ottawa 2 1 3 - 6
Washington 0 0 2 - 2
First period - 1, Ottawa, Neil 1 (Fisher, Havlat), 1:25. 2, Ottawa, Alfredsson 9 (White, Havlat), 18:27. Penalties - Bonk, Ott (tripping), 2:15; Kwiatkowski, Ott (hooking), 7:00. Second period - 3, Ottawa, Hossa 13 (Spezza, Redden), 3:56 (pp). Penalty-Miller, Was (delay of game), 3:30. Third period - 4, Ottawa, Spezza 4 (Neil, White), 5:13 (pp). 5, Washington, Nylander 6 (Ciernik), 9:58. 6, Ottawa, Havlat 4 (Bonk, Hossa), 12:00 (pp). 7, Ottawa, Alfredsson 10 (Van Allen, Havlat), 13:50. 8, Washingtom, Sutherby 1 (Konowalchuk, Grier), 14:36. Penalties - Halpern, Was (high-sticking), 3:28; Phillips, Ott, major (fighting), 9:31; Halpern, Was, major (fighting), 9:31; Nylander, Was (hooking), 10:31; Spezza, Ott (tripping), 17:44. Shots on goal - Ottawa 10-15-9-34. Washington 8-10-5-23. Power-play opportunities - Ottawa 3 of 3; Washington 0 of 3. Goalies - Ottawa, Lalime 10-6-3 (23 shots-21 saves). Washington, Kolzig 8-8-1 (34-28). A - 15,822 (18,277).