- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 23, 2000

CAPS 3, CANUCKS 2

The Washington Capitals, turkeys plenty of times already this season, turned into birds of prey last night instead of laughingstocks.

Nonetheless, coach Ron Wilson said he had first dibs on the wishbone today.

Andrei Nikolishin scored 4:17 into overtime, sending his Caps to their first win of the season in the extra period, a 3-2 decision over the Vancouver Canucks at MCI Center. It did not come without a heavy price center Jan Bulis, who scored Washington's first goal, sustained a broken right thumb and will be lost for at least two weeks.

"Everybody was yelling on the bench that we got to win this game in overtime, and it happened," said Nikolishin, the checking line center who has turned into a scoring dynamo this season. His goal last night was his sixth; he had only 11 last season in 76 games.

The win did not come against mediocre competition. The Canucks are being transformed into a good young team after doing little since playing in the Stanley Cup finals a half-dozen years ago. They skate very well and, most impressively, pass the puck with darting precision. They led the NHL in scoring (3.57 goals a game) going in, and their 28 points would have been enough to take first place in the Eastern Conference.

But the Caps didn't back down last night, committing few of the defensive lapses that have cost them dearly this season. They played hard, and they were finally rewarded.

"They shouldn't have the record [5-9-6-1] they have," Canucks coach Marc Crawford said. "We turned them around last year; maybe we are going to do it again. They're a quality club, a lot of speed and they had a few guys who were brave because [Donald] Brashear wasn't in the lineup."

But the Canucks did have defenseman Adrian Aucoin, who crosschecked Bulis from behind, crushing him to the ice. The same defenseman punched 190-pound center Terry Yake in the face, knocking him to the ice just a minute before Nikolishin scored his goal. Aucoin did not confront Nikolishin, Brendan Witt or Chris Simon.

"It feels good to win a game in overtime; we've had enough practice," Wilson said. "It's nice to finally get rewarded for all the hard work we put into overtime [in eight previous games]."

Bulis scored 15 minutes into the first period, jamming the puck into a corner goalie Felix Potvin was trying to keep closed. It came off a good backhand pass from Jeff Halpern.

Brent Sopel ripped a 35-footer through Olie Kolzig's legs for the only score of the second period, and that set up a helter-skelter third.

Simon got his second of the season 14 minutes in, lifting a shot into the top left-hand corner off Peter Bondra's pass, but Markus Naslund tied it four minutes later by poking a shot through Witt and Kolzig.

That left it up to Nikolishin.

"I'm glad Niko shot the puck," Wilson said. "I'm always scared in those situations that he's going to look to make a pass, and he just threw it at the net. It wasn't a particularly good shot, but it handcuffed the goalie and we scored."

And with one shot did in all the turkey jokes, too.

Notes Defenseman Joe Reekie returned to the lineup after sitting out a two-game suspension for nudging Jeremy Roenick of Phoenix into the boards. The league maintained it was more than a nudge… .

Right wing Joe Sacco (hip flexor) is the only Cap out with an injury. Washington has lost 18 man-games to injury this season, a figure the team used to rack up in just a few games… .

Wing Joe Murphy returned to the lineup and had an exceptional chance less than two minutes into the game but couldn't find the handle right in front of Potvin. He had been scratched since Oct. 26, when he was assessed two penalties on the same play and Boston converted both ends to win the game… .

Wilson and Vancouver general manager Brian Burke were teammates on the Providence College hockey team in the 1960s.

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