- The Washington Times - Friday, February 11, 2000

MONTREAL Olie Kolzig's fourth shutout of the season is the one that will get him into the Washington Capitals record books. That is not the part that interests him in the least.

Center Andrei Nikolishin scored nearly eight minutes into the third period, and that was all Kolzig needed for his 15th career shutout as the Caps blanked Montreal 1-0 Thursday night, avenging a loss by the same score Dec. 4.

The win gave Washington a record of 14-2-4 since Christmas and allowed the Caps to get back within seven points of Southeast Division leader Florida and move into fifth place in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of idle Ottawa.

With the shutout, Kolzig is now the all-time leader in that category among Washington goaltenders, displacing Jim Carey. But Kolzig said all he cared about was the win.

"Obviously it's a nice honor, but I'm more happy with the wins than the shutouts," he said. "Jim Carey did his damage in two years; it's taken me 10 now. I'm not really too concerned about it, but for this game I needed a shutout to get the win. And that's important to me."

Kolzig actually has been a starter for only three seasons. He is 23-15-8 this season, but even he admits he didn't have to sweat a lot to put this one in the books.

"It was a great defensive effort," he said. "The only chances they had was when we were killing penalties in the first period, and then it seemed like we were protecting the lead a little bit in the third and they came at us a little harder and they had a couple chances then. But that was one of our best defensive efforts of the year, definitely."

It had to be. At the other end, Jose Theodore was on his way to what seemed like another shutout until Nikolishin scored at 7:48 of the third. As it was, Theodore ran off 87 minutes, 48 seconds of scoreless hockey against Washington.

The winning play began as a penalty to Montreal was expiring. Calle Johansson started it, Peter Bondra continued it and Nikolishin finished it with a well-placed shot into the lower left corner.

"The puck got loose and I got it and everything seemed to slow down," Johansson said. "I think me and Bondra were the only guys skating. They reacted to the puck and had to stop. I had all the time in the world, I could have shot it or given it to Bondra. I gave it to him, and he fed Nikolishin in the slot and it was in."

Said Nikolishin: "Bondra gave me a good drop pass in the neutral zone, and it went back to Calle and then to Bondra, it was a pretty good play. I think Bondra was passing it to [Dmitri] Mironov, who was behind me, but I jumped into the slot, grabbed the puck and shot."

The Caps' defense once again was stifling, permitting shots from the perimeter but nothing in close. Among the most impressed with Washington was Canadiens coach Alain Vigneault.

"For me now, I realize why they are the hottest team in the NHL," he said. "They play so well with and without the puck; they do a lot of little things well. There wasn't much room out there for us. The only room was along the boards so we had to chip the puck and skate up to it, chip the puck and skate up to it, and that makes for a tough grinding game.

"It wasn't because of the lack of trying on our part, maybe some of our guys weren't up to that. But their game is up here at both ends of the rink," he said, pointing to his head,

Notes The Canadiens are up to 362 man-games lost this season and project 560… . Ex-Florida coach Doug MacLean, who was an assistant under Bryan Murray with the Caps and is now general manager of the Columbus team that joins the league next season, took in the game Thursday night, scouting expansion draft material… .

The Caps will be back to two healthy scratches starting Saturday night in Nashville now that Joe Murphy is on the team. Actually the club is at the 23-player limit right now because James Black was never placed on injured reserve but can be. Mike Eagles watched the game last night in street clothes… . Chris Simon has been the toast of the French media for the past two days. While not French, he speaks the language fluently, the only Cap who does… .

The Caps travel to Nashville Saturday night and Dallas on Sunday night, making a total of four games in six nights since Tuesday. Washington hosts Colorado on Tuesday before heading out for three more.

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