- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 11, 2003

The Washington Capitals got a tongue-lashing between the second and third periods last night for being close but not close enough and not being able to beat top-end teams like Philadelphia.

The message got through. Peter Bondra scored from the right point on a power play 21 seconds into overtime, and the Caps had a 2-1 victory over the Flyers.

The win gives Washington a three-point lead over Tampa Bay in the race for the Southeast Division title. The Lightning are off until they play host to the Los Angeles Kings tomorrow night; the Caps are off until Friday.

Washington played without two-thirds of its normal first line. Left wing Kip Miller is out for four games with what is being described as a bruised hand, and right wing Jaromir Jagr is sidelined with a cracked bone in a wrist.

The missing players had the expected ripple effect on the rest of the forwards. Dainius Zubrus was moved up to the right side with first-line center Robert Lang, while Josh Green, a spare, was put on the left side. Ivan Ciernik replaced Zubrus on the right side of the second line. Jeff Halpern's checking line stayed the same, while physical players Alex Henry and Stephen Peat joined center Brian Sutherby on the fourth line.

"It was a big win," said goalie Olie Kolzig, who got some support last night, unlike Saturday afternoon in Boston when he was driven from the net down three in just 10 minutes. "We didn't play our best in the second period. It was addressed in the intermission. We had to kill a penalty early in the third. We survived that and just took the play to them. I thought we really responded well, and it was a big win, no question, with our best player out of the lineup."

The Flyers seemed to view the game with casual indifference, and they paid for it in the end, failing to respond to the Washington charge in the third period. Washington was outplayed and outshot 9-5 in the second period. The Caps had a 16-3 shooting advantage in the third, and Lang tied the game on a power play 7:09 into the period.

"Yeah, we had a few things to say," coach Bruce Cassidy said of the speech between periods. "In a nutshell, as a staff we were tired of being close but not good enough against good teams. So they came out and played pretty hard, and I'm proud of them. The way they played arguably was one of our best periods, certainly intensity-wise or work-ethic wise, in a long time."

The Flyers got the first goal of the game, scoring at even strength 17 minutes into the second period on a play that probably should have been disallowed. Todd Fedoruk was creating his usual havoc around the net, while Claude Lapointe, who earlier this week was with the New York Islanders, went to the right boards to retrieve a loose puck.

Lapointe turned and let go with a wrist shot in the direction of the goal. Fedoruk was crossing in front of the goalie and made contact with Kolzig, knocking him backward into the net. In the process, the puck zipped into the cage. Kolzig immediately attempted to plead his case with the officials, but it fell on deaf ears.

Philadelphia thought it had the first goal of the game earlier, 10:20 into the first on a power play, but referee Kerry Fraser waved it off before Kolzig had a chance to turn and complain. One of the Flyers had made contact with the goalie as he passed through the crease, obstructing Kolzig just enough to nullify the score.

The first score of the game should have gone to the Caps. With just under two minutes to play in the opening period and Washington already killing its third minor penalty of the night, Mike Grier intercepted a pass and broke down the ice on a 2-on-1 with Zubrus, a former Flyer. Grier took the puck all the way in on goalie Robert Esche before passing to Zubrus just inside the hashmarks. Zubrus shot wide, and Philadelphia escaped.

Defenseman Brendan Witt left the game in the second period after colliding with Flyers center Keith Primeau behind the Washington net. Witt did not return. A team spokesman said the defenseman had sustained "an upper body injury." It is not believed to be serious.

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