- The Washington Times - Friday, April 17, 2009

After 14 seasons in the NHL, Viktor Kozlov finally can relax. His postseason goal drought is over.

Kozlov potted the Washington Capitals’ second goal Wednesday in a 4-3 series-opening loss to the New York Rangers. He had played in five previous playoff series - a span of 21 games - without finding the back of the net.

“Yes, it is a big weight off,” he said. “I was excited. It helped us get closer in the game.”

Despite enjoying a long, solid NHL career, Kozlov had earned a reputation as a player whose production in the playoffs does not meet his regular-season standards. But Kozlov was one of Washington’s top forwards Wednesday, helping the top line keep control of the puck with his work along the boards. He is in the midst of a four-game postseason scoring streak - he had an assist in each of the final three games against Philadelphia last season.

“I think it was probably important for Viktor,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We need Viktor to play well to succeed, so I was really happy for him.”

A light day

Both teams went light at practice Thursday, the result of a schedule that yielded an extra day of rest before Saturday’s Game 2.

Five of the top six forwards for the Caps and five defensemen were not on the ice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. Only eight Rangers players suited up for practice at Verizon Center.

“We want them to get away, and we’ll start again tomorrow with tape,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “I don’t want to overload them and have them thinking too much.”

Said Boudreau: “We’re coming up to their 84th game. And as we all know, the playoff games are a lot more intense than the regular season. As you saw, there was a lot more hitting going on than a normal game, so some of them had some bumps and bruises, and it is better to take off.”

Drury practices

Rangers captain Chris Drury was one of eight players to take the team’s optional skate. He missed the Rangers’ final regular-season game and Game 1 with an undisclosed injury.

During practice, Drury appeared to be skating well while working with Scott Gomez and Markus Naslund. Tortorella said he remains day-to-day.

Call and a noncall

Tortorella was peeved by a holding call on defenseman Dan Girardi 18 seconds into Wednesday’s game and a noncall on Capitals defenseman Mike Green for a hard check of right wing Fredrik Sjostrom.

The Girardi penalty: “It was a brutal call,” Tortorella said. “My gosh, it was just a brutal call in a playoff series.”

The Green hit: “I’m not going to play referee, but I have Dan Girardi’s call at the beginning of the game and a noncall here,” he said. “It just makes no sense to me.”

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