- The Washington Times - Friday, February 4, 2000

Ulf Dahlen, who plays far more physically than his 190 pounds would suggest in a game of bigger men, was more than the Carolina Hurricanes could handle Thursday night.

Dahlen twirled through the Hurricanes' defense with the puck 6:22 into the third period and beat goalie Arturs Irbe, who was screened by a teammate. The goal gave the Caps a 2-1 victory and extended the team's unbeaten streak at home to 11 games (9-0-2). It also was Washington's eighth straight victory at home, a club record.

At the All-Star break last season, the Caps had a record of 16-23-4, good for 36 points but after 43 games as opposed to 51 this season. Washington reaches the break this time with 59 points, good for sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

The win came with a very costly loss for the Caps. Left wing James Black sustained a broken left leg with just more than 30 seconds left in the game when he blocked a slap shot from defenseman Sean Hill. He will be out four to six weeks.

Dahlen had been controlling the puck with one hand and cycling behind and around the net when he finally came into the deep slot and shot. Defenseman Paul Coffey provided a perfect screen, and Irbe only got a piece of the puck.

Washington fell behind nearly 13 minutes into the first period, surrendering its first goal on the power play in the last 20 attempts by the opposition. With Ken Klee off for holding, future Hall of Famer Coffey shot from the left point trying to build on the 1,510 points he already has in his lengthy NHL career. The defenseman's shot was deflected by Gary Roberts right in front of goalie Olie Kolzig, who had no chance to prevent the goal, as the expression on his face clearly showed.

Washington outshot the Hurricanes 11-9 in the first period, but most of the Caps' shots were harmless. One that nearly got through Irbe came from rookie Jeff Halpern at 3:35. His attempt caught pipe and bounced away.

The Caps had a very obvious advantage for most of the second period, as the shot totals (17-5) illustrated. But all that activity produced only one goal, plus one that was disallowed.

The goal came from one of Washington's most unlikely sources: newly acquired left wing Jim McKenzie, who was snapped up off the waiver list for other things he does.

Washington was putting on pressure and had more than one whack at the puck before the rebound of James Black's shot came to McKenzie, and he whipped it into the cage at 3:22. McKenzie was in the game only because a teammate came down with the flu just before game time.

The one that didn't count came at 8:38 with Hurricanes defenseman Nolan Pratt in the penalty box for holding. A rebound came out to Irbe's right side, and defenseman Sergei Gonchar hustled in and drilled it. As he did, Peter Bondra was cutting through the crease, between the goalie and the cage, and interfered with Irbe, knocking him to the ground and opening a huge path for Gonchar's shot. Referee Kerry Fraser disallowed the goal.

The second period started with Kolzig making a huge stop on Rod Brind'Amour. Eighteen minutes later, it was Andrei Nikolishin who came to his goalie's aid when Sami Kapanen's blast got through the goalie and started dribbling across the goal line. Nikolishin reached in at the last second and pulled it back.

Notes The Caps got a break before the game started. Carolina's Bates Battaglia, who seems to survive in this league purely on the basis of scoring against the Caps, was scratched with a bad shoulder… . Washington was down to one healthy scratch, Mike Eagles, because right wing Joe Sacco came down with the flu and had to be replaced… . The Caps are off until late Monday afternoon, when they practice. They fly to Boston the next day as the season resumes after the All-Star break.

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