- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Bruce Cassidy, the former Washington Capitals coach who’s now an assistant in Chicago, had a hunch about how to beat his old team.

It worked but came close to being a disaster for the Blackhawks.

In a game neither team deserved to win for long periods of time, the Caps took the Blackhawks to overtime before falling 4-3 on a goal that sliced into the net off the back of a player pushed onto Olie Kolzig’s lap.

With the loss, Washington ended the first half of the season with a five-game losing streak, a record of 13-23-5 and 31 points, tied for worst in the Eastern Conference.

The win snapped Chicago’s 10-game losing streak, its longest since the end of the 1950-51 season.

Cassidy, who was fired by the Caps in December 2003, said he told Blackhawks coach Trent Yawney that he remembered Washington having problems with younger, inexperienced goalies. With veteran star Nikolai Khabibulin injured, Chicago was carrying two netminders, Craig Anderson and Adam Munro, formerly of Norfolk in the American Hockey League. Yawney took Cassidy’s suggestion, and Munro got the call.

“I told Trent that I’ve seen it happen in this building where a kid goes in there and plays well, but that was a few years ago,” Cassidy said. “He was decent. There were a few funny goals, but he made some big saves especially early on, like when there was a two-on-two and [Alex] Ovechkin was in the slot. He has his days.”

Munro has two victories in nine NHL decisions, and both are against the Caps.

There certainly were some strange goals last night, including one scored on Kolzig accidentally by one of his own defensemen. Washington fell behind 3-0 before the second period was three minutes old but came back to tie.

“I never lose faith in our group,” said coach Glen Hanlon, who replaced Cassidy. “We should never get into a situation where we have to have a valiant effort to come back. We should be able to execute a little better at the start and not get ourselves into that position.”

Brendan Witt, with his first goal since April Fool’s Day in 2004, sparked the Caps’ comeback. Ovechkin scored the next goal and assisted on a tally by Brian Sutherby to set up overtime.

In the extra session, Tyler Arnason, son of former Caps player Chuck Arnason, directed a drive toward the crease. Shaone Morrisonn checked Kyle Calder into Kolzig, and Arnason’s drive hit Calder on the backside as he was decking the goalie. The puck flew past the distracted Kolzig into the net.

There was a lengthy review of the score at 2:01 of overtime, but it was finally allowed.

A positive note for Washington was the first-half performance of Ovechkin, who finished his first 41 NHL games with 26 goals and 25 assists. He is on pace to score more than 50 goals and 100 points. He would be only the second rookie in league history to hit both of those levels. Teemu Selanne, with 76 goals and 132 points in 1992-93 for Winnipeg, was the other.

Notes — Left wing Matt Pettinger (flu) was added to the growing list of sidelined Caps. He joined team captain Jeff Halpern (groin) and left wing Jeff Friesen (groin) to bring Washington’s season total of man-games missed because of injury to 104.

Washington recalled left wing-center Colin Forbes from Hershey to fill in. Forbes, 29, was acquired Dec. 28 from Carolina when Washington finally was able to trade right wing Stephen Peat. Forbes didn’t fare poorly in his season debut with the Caps. He skated on the first line — as a right wing — and was on the power play. Not a bad assignment for a player with just 12 goals in the minors this season.

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