- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 16, 2000

The Washington Capitals moved within seven points of the Eastern Conference lead last night while the New York Islanders dropped another level closer to playoff elimination.

What should have been an easy assignment Caps hosting the Islanders turned into a bitter fight for three long periods with Washington prevailing in the end 4-3 after overcoming a two-goal first-period deficit.

How tough has this season's series against the Islanders been? The Caps won all four games by a total of just five goals, and the games were every bit that close. Washington now has a 15-game unbeaten streak (14-0-1) going against New York, third longest in team history against an opposing team.

The Caps now trail Eastern Conference leader New Jersey by seven points after the Devils lost to Dallas last night. Washington moved four points ahead of idle Florida in the Southeast Division, with the Panthers holding a game in hand. The Caps currently own the third seed in the East and are just two points behind second-seeded Toronto, which lost to Chicago last night.

Goaltender Olie Kolzig, who until the start of the 1997-98 season had only 14 victories in his entire NHL career, equaled his high for a season with his 34th (against 18 losses and 10 ties). His total is one short of the club record owned by Jim Carey.

For a while last night, it did not appear Kolzig would be doing anything approaching a record, at least not a positive one. He was beaten three times in the opening 16 minutes but could be faulted on only one, the first when he went down too early as Josh Green barreled in from the right side.

Kolzig got very little help in the first period, and the Islanders took advantage. Brad Isbister's goal at 11:21 came when the Washington defense allowed three Islanders to get behind it, all of them in alone on the goalie. Isbister scored off the third pass, illustrating how bad it was for the Caps down low.

"We didn't really respect the Islanders in the first period," Caps coach Ron Wilson said. "The first period was passive, not aggressive. You could be ready to meet a team, but [you don't know for sure] until you step onto the ice when it really matters."

Islanders coach Butch Goring, who has had a tough year trying to keep a team functioning with constantly changing manpower, thought he saw some positives.

"We did a lot of good things in the first period," he said. "We talked about … limiting the number of errors, because we wanted to get the guys in the sense of a playoff game. You have to be disciplined. After the first period, we started to cheat all over the place. We stopped hitting, stopped dumping it in, and consequently we had a lot of turnovers and allowed Washington to get back into the game."

Ken Klee had put the Caps up 1-0 in the first five minutes before the Isles scored three straight. Terry Yake finished the first with a goal that narrowed the deficit to 3-2, but there was a long way to go.

Peter Bondra's 20th of the season, a desperate shot as a power play was winding down, tied the score midway through the second. Chris Simon scored on a powerful shot seven minutes later, his 25th of the season, and the scoring was through.

Two more Caps departed early with injuries. Defenseman Calle Johansson had a badly bruised foot and right wing Ulf Dahlen a stiff neck. Wilson said he expects both to play tomorrow night against Carolina.

Notes The Caps had five medical scratches, boosting their season total to 194 man-games lost to injury. That may seem like a lot, but last year at the same time the figure was 415 and it rose to 511 before the season was over… .

Richard Zednik (concussion) and Brendan Witt (groin) are listed as day-to-day although it seems highly unlikely Zednik could be ready for Tampa Bay tomorrow night. The right wing has yet to practice with the team and hasn't played since Feb. 23. Witt has missed just one game.

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