Inspired by the return of Sergei Fedorov and Mike Green - or perhaps by the presence of a 6-7 Web site producer sitting on the bench as their backup goalie - the Washington Capitals maintained their home-ice dominance last night with a 5-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators.
Alexander Semin, Brooks Laich and Green all scored for the first time this month, Alex Ovechkin got his 16th and 17th goals of the season, and Brent Johnson made 32 saves for the Capitals, who improved to an Eastern Conference-best 12-1-1 at the Verizon Center.
The injury-riddled Capitals welcomed back forward Fedorov (three assists), who had missed 16 of 17 games because of a sprained ankle, and defenseman Green (goal, two assists), sidelined 11 games by a shoulder problem. Semin and defenseman Tom Poti returned from injury layoffs in the previous game, a win over Boston on Wednesday.
But no scenario was stranger than the series of events that led to the lanky Brett Leonhardt sitting on the bench in uniform during the first 10 minutes of the game.
Leonhardt, a Division III goalie at two colleges, including Neumann College in Aston, Delaware County, and a Capitals Web site employee for about a year, signed an amateur tryout contract before the game after Jose Theodore injured a hip flexor during the morning shootaround.
While the backup goalies received lots of attention, Johnson continued to make his case to stay No. 1. He already has nine wins, his most since the 2005-06 season.
In other games:
* At Newark, N.J., Patrik Elias scored with 8:31 left to rescue the New Jersey Devils, who squandered a four-goal lead yet managed to beat the New York Rangers 8-5.
* At Atlanta, Phil Kessel had a goal and two assists to extend his NHL-best points streak to 14 games, and the Boston Bruins scored four times on their first five shots in a 7-3 victory over the Thrashers. Kessel had an assist in the first-period spree, then added a power-play goal and another assist in the third period. He leads Boston with 18 goals and has 11 assists.
* At Denver, third-period goals by Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien led the Chicago Blackhawks to a 4-3 win over the Colorado Rockies.
* At Dallas, Marty Turco made 37 saves, rookies Tom Wandell and Fabian Brunnstrom scored goals and the Stars beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-1.
* At Buffalo, Ian White broke a tie with 7:56 left in the third period, and Vesa Toskala made 24 saves in the Toronto Maple Leafs' 2-1 victory over the Sabres.
* At Calgary, goalie Tomas Vokoun stropped 35 shots in regulation, then three more in a shootout as the Florida Panthers downed the Flames, 3-2.
* Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo, out since Nov. 22, has experienced soreness in his injured groin and did not make the trip to Edmonton for tonight's game against the Oilers.
* St. Louis goalie Manny Legace was placed on injured reserve with what the team described as a mild concussion after he took a knee to the head in the first period of Wednesday's 4-2 loss at Anaheim. *