Natural Not Enough
By: Mark Solway 
Posted: 2007-03-16
Category: Washington Capitals News
Chris Clark's three-goal performance against the Boston Bruins was not enough to earn his team a victory on Thursday night. In what has become a familiar outcome this year, the Caps could not take the extra point in the shootout, and lost 4-3. It was Washington's league-worst eleventh shootout loss of the season, and extended their overall winless streak to nine games (0-6-3).

Phil Kessel scored the winner for Boston as the third and final shooter in the shootout. With teammate Patrice Bergeron having scored his penalty attempt, and only Alex Ovechkin having netted his penalty shot for Washington in their three attempts, the two points were Boston's the moment Kessel's shot crossed the goal line.

The result severely dampened two great individual Caps performances - Clark's, and goaltender Olaf Kolzig's.

In his first game back since mid-February, Kolzig stopped 36 of the 39 Boston shots he faced, including six in the overtime frame alone. Three of those shots came from Zdeno Chara, the man with the hardest shot in th NHL at the All-Star competition. The last shot came with very little time left in the overtime and caused Kolzig to grimace as the slapper bounced off his bare knee, the same one that kept him out for the last 13 games.

Olie shook it off though, and didn't seem to be bothered by it in the shootout. Actually, there were no signs at all that Kolzig had been on the shelf for over a month; he was his same rock-solid self. It was just the third time that he has lost this season in a game where he faced over 35 shots (11-3-2). A truly amazing statistic.

Captain Clark had to be a little disappointed. Not only was his second career hat trick in a losing cause, but BOTH times that Clark has scored three goals have now been in 4-3 shootout losses! Clark's first hat trick came a year ago, almost to the day, on March 18, 2006 against the Florida Panthers.

The three goals gave Clark a career best 27 this season. When you combine his 27 goals with Alex Ovechkin's 41 goals, and Alexander Semin's 33 goals, you have accounted for exactly half of the Capitals' total goal output this season (101 of 202).

Hat tricks aren't all that rare, but natural hat tricks are. Not only was it a natural hat trick for Clark, but he also managed to score at even strength, on the power play and short-handed. The short-handed goal was Clark's team-leading fourth of the season, and gave Washington a 3-0 lead with less than three minutes to go in the second period.

It was Tomas Fleischmann in the box for holding when Clark put Washington up by three; but he wouldn't serve the full two minutes as Marco Sturm scored on the Boston power play. At 3-1 with 1:36 left in the second, Boston now had the momentum, and pressed hard for the remainder of the period. The result was two last-minute penalties from Capitals Shaone Morrison and Steve Eminger as they scrambled to maintain their two goal lead.

Boston went into the third knowing that they would have a two-man advantage for over a minute. It didn't take that long. Brandon Bochenski notched his third power play goal of the season just thirty seconds in, and the Bruins were within one at 3-2 and still on the power play for another 1:22.

Patrice Bergeron made it 3-3 just over a minute later to complete the comeback in front of the Boston faithful at TD Banknorth Garden. Marc Savard picked up his third assist of the evening on the Bruins third straight power play marker.

The score stayed that way until the end of the third period, and despite the referees giving Boston a huge opportunity with a power play in overtime. the Bruins could not solve Kolzig again until the shootout.

Washington has now earned just three points out of the last possible eighteen; regardless, they had to be pleased to not only get their goaltender back, but get him back in late-season form. The Capitals return home tonight to face the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Verizon Center.

Game time is 7:00 p.m. and tickets are still available.



Giroux Up From Hershey

Washington recalled left winger Alexandre Giroux from the American Hockey League. Giroux has played in 57 games for the Hershey Bears this season, and four for the Capitals. He leads the Bears with 61 points (38 goals, 23 assists).
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