WASHINGTON - Pucks were flying at Washington goalie Sebastien Charpentier. He nearly spun one of them into his own net on a clearing attempt. On another shot, he dived to the ice and threw his arms out to prevent a dangerous rebound. Another time, he made back-to-back saves just to keep the Capitals in the game.
"He deserved two points," said Capitals coach Glen Hanlon after Charpentier had made 31 saves, but his team had lost to the Carolina Hurricanes, 2-1.
Charpentier, a relative rookie who has suffered most of this season from an arthritic hip that forced the Caps to put him on the injured-reserve list in November, was one of the few bright lights for Washington last night.
"You have to look for the good in this and Charpy means a lot to me," said Hanlon. "I know where he's come from and how much pain he's endured. He has all the characteristics of what I look for in people and I appreciate that. I know his teammates appreciate him, too."
Unfortunately, the Capitals could not generate enough offense to go with some pretty good defense.
Washington's offense was so flat through the first 40 minutes that it could generate only five shots against an Eastern Conference opponent that is in little better shape than the Capitals in the standings.
"It's not right," said Hanlon. "We're in a situation here where we're trying to establish things. Five or seven shots, that's not what we want. We're working on it. We're addressing it behind closed doors."
Carolina is now 20-27-12-3 and in 13th place in the East, while the Caps are 19-34-8-2 and in 14th place. Both are well behind in the race for the top eight spots that qualify for postseason play.
"We didn't get enough pucks in deep," said the Caps' Mike Grier. "We need to get our forecheck working. It's been a problem all season. Even though the coaches have all worked with us on it and talked about it, we've been stubborn about not doing it."
Carolina won with a goal by Erik Cole on a 3-on-2 counter- attack on which Charpentier had no chance and on a second-period power-play goal by Jeff O'Neill, who scored with a 5-on-3 advantage.
O'Neill's goal was part of a four-minute span in which the Caps committed three penalties that gave Carolina a two-man advantage for 1:54 of those four minutes.
"I know we lost, but it was fun to get a start," said Charpentier, who got the call because starter Olie Kolzig missed practice Tuesday to be with his wife for the birth of their third child, a son. "There were times during the season I was thinking I was done for the year.
"Maybe I proved I could be a decent backup. Even though we lost, I was very happy."
Washington's lone goal came with 36.9 seconds left in the second period when Robert Lang, the league's leading point scorer, got his 29th goal.