<
>

Ovechkin scores 47th as Caps top Hurricanes

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Dynamic Alexander Ovechkin is finishing up
his first NHL season in fine fashion. Maybe now, the Washington
Capitals can do the same.

"Hard work, it's almost like our DNA now," Washington right
wing Dainius Zubrus said. "We step on the ice, and one thing we're
going to do is work hard. It starts from the older guys and works
its way down."

All the way down to the rookie.

Ovechkin scored his 47th goal, Matt Pettinger added a
short-handed score and the Capitals snapped an eight-game losing
streak with a 3-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday
night.

It was Pettinger's fifth with his team down a man, tying him for
the best in the NHL, as Washington won for the first time since
beating Pittsburgh 2½ weeks ago. Yet five of the eight losses since
were by one goal, with two going to a shootout and another decided
in overtime.

"They work so hard every night, and to go eight games without a
win is difficult," Capitals coach Glen Hanlon said of his players.
"For them to come out and to play that hard and play that well is
a testament to the character in the room."

Zubrus scored on the power play midway through the third period
to seal it for the Capitals.

"It's been hard on everybody, too many close games," he said.
"We didn't catch the breaks, either. Somehow, it didn't work out
for us. It's nice to beat a good team."

The Capitals jumped on top early when Ovechkin took a
misdirected pass from Brooks Laich, whirled and beat goaltender
Martin Gerber less than 2 minutes into the first period. Ovechkin
has four goals and three assists in the past four games.

He clearly isn't slowing down.

"Right now, we have 11 games left," Ovechkin said. "It's just
the end of the season, and right now, I want to play hard and
improve. I want to win."

When Pettinger got his goal during a Carolina power play in the
first minute of the second, Washington was well on its way to doing
just that.

"We were frustrating them and staying fairly disciplined,"
said Washington goaltender Olaf Kolzig, who stopped 33 shots. "In
the third period, they just threw everything at the net. I'm sure
they got a little bit of yelling after the second period."

It wasn't enough for the Hurricanes, who returned home following
a stretch of nine of 10 games on the road. Rod Brind'Amour scored
on the power play early in the final period to cut the lead to 2-1,
and he appeared to tie it a few minutes later.

But teammate Justin Williams was called for incidental
goaltender interference, and referee Shane Heyer wiped away the
goal.

"I remember getting pushed in and bending over and looking in,
and the puck was in the net," Williams said. "It was a tough
break. It was a turning point in the game."

Zubrus quickly took advantage of the break when Bryan Muir's
shot banged off his skate and into the net past Gerber. It was 3-1
at that point and Carolina couldn't recover.

"You stand there long enough, sometimes it's going to happen,"
Zubrus said. "It was luck more than anything else, for sure."

The Hurricanes fell to 27-6-1 at the RBC Center, with the
previous two losses to teams at the bottom of the Eastern
Conference. The other came Feb. 10 to Pittsburgh, the only team
with fewer points than Washington.

"We had an obligation to show up and play a hockey game,"
Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said. "What has been the
cornerstone of our team, our work ethic and tenacity, was not
there."

Once again, Carolina was without a handful of key players, with
center Doug Weight and defensemen Bret Hedican and Niclas Wallin
sitting out with lower-body injuries. All are considered day to day
and might be back for the remaining three games of the homestand.

The Hurricanes already were without Erik Cole (fractured
vertebra), Josef Vasicek (left knee surgery) and Andrew Hutchinson
(wrist), leaving them with 218 games lost to injuries. That's more
than all but two of the previous seven full seasons.

At least Vasicek was able to join his teammates for the pregame
skate, and he expects to return in the next week or so. It might be
in time to catch the Capitals again -- the teams meet four more
times in the next 13 days.

"Hopefully, Washington's got our attention," Laviolette said.
"I'd hate to see the same effort and preparation again. It's
unacceptable. It's inexcusable."

Game notes
For depth, Carolina called up RW Keith Aucoin from Lowell
of the AHL before the game. ... Ovechkin added an assist on the
goal by Zubrus and now has 91 points, tied for the 10th-best season
by a rookie in NHL history. He has a chance to pass Mike Bossy (53)
for the second-most goals by a first-year player; Teemu Selanne had
76 in 1992-93.