- The Washington Times - Monday, April 10, 2000

Having members of the Buffalo Sabres dancing little victory jigs around your ice rink, congratulating themselves before the game was even over, was not part of the program as the Washington Capitals envisioned it yesterday.
Nonetheless, the Caps and Sabres ended their regular seasons with a less-than-dramatic 1-1 overtime deadlock, giving the Sabres the point they needed to clinch postseason and pushing Washington to a 102-point finish, a huge 34-point improvement over last season's dismal performance which did not include the playoffs.
It was a terribly anticlimatic finish after the Caps had won the Southeast Division Saturday and clinched second place in the Eastern Conference. Philadelphia clubbed the New York Rangers yesterday, denying the Caps the top seed in the East, and will host the Sabres in the first round. The Caps will entertain Pittsburgh, a frequent visitor to the nation's capital during playoff time.
The Pittsburgh-Washington best-of-7 series is expected to start Wednesday night at MCI Center.
Buffalo's Stu Barnes and Washington's Richard Zednik provided the goal scoring yesterday while the Sabres' Dominik Hasek and the Caps' Olie Kolzig stopped the remainder of what passed for offense, some players saying the two teams deserved the end result because neither played well enough to win.
Not that the Caps weren't urged to go for the victory. Coach Ron Wilson continually prodded his team to drive for the win in regulation in the hopes that Buffalo would be eliminated, which it would have been if Carolina could defeat Atlanta in a later game, which it did. If the Sabres were gone, there were no more worries by the Caps and 14 other teams about facing Hasek, known as the Dominator, in a later round.
And Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff prodded his troops to go for the victory even after postseason had been achieved because "it looks better that way."
"We went with our power play group at the end because we wanted to win before it got to overtime," Wilson said, apparently forgetting his power play groups are zero for their last dozen tries and have scored just twice in their last 31 chances.
"We would have loved to have played the role of spoiler, that's what we came into the game for," Wilson said. "Buffalo held on and my hat's off to them. We tried to get the extra point in overtime and they did, too."
Buffalo had more than half its 25 shots in the first period and scored on its only shot in the third, a redirection Kolzig had no chance to get. Zednik's goal came on Washington's 13th shot, nearly 46 minutes into the game, when his drive was deflected by a defenseman's stick.
Washington left wing Chris Simon, searching for his 30th goal, nearly undressed Hasek with a blast off a faceoff 15:14 into the first but the goalie blocked it. Other than Zednik's shot, it may have been Washington's best chance.
Kolzig was busier than usual, which has been the case lately, a change in patterns which has the coaching staff concerned. He made game-saving stops on Maxim Afinogenov and Slava Satan on power plays in the second period and Calle Johansson stopped another threat when he got a skate on a puck to break up a 2-on-1, also in the second.
Kolzig was presented with a watch after the game for dominating the three-star selections throughout the season. It was his 73rd game, a team record, as was just about everything else he did this season in rewriting the team performance guide. He concluded the season with a record of 41-20-11; just three years ago he had won only 14 games in his NHL career.
The 102 points were the Caps' second best ever (they had 107 after the 1985-86 season). More than 70 of those points came after Christmas when the club went out and terrorized the rest of the league, going 32-10-7. Washington's home record ended at 26-7-8-2, the seven losses lowering the team record by one.
The Caps allowed only 194 goals this season, eight less than the club's previous best defensive effort. And the Caps allowed just 83 goals at home, 11 fewer than the 94 allowed two years ago.
Meanwhile, neither Wilson nor general manager George McPhee could say when Peter Bondra would be available to play. The right wing has missed the last five games with what is being described as a bruised shoulder.
"We did it a couple years ago when we went to the finals, you have to play without certain people," McPhee said. "You just build a bridge and get over it."
"We'd like to get him back but don't forget we finished second [in the East] basically without Peter all year," Wilson said. "We'd love to get him back in. If not I've got plenty of guys who are capable of getting the job done."
Bondra finished the season with 21 goals and 38 points in 62 games.

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