It was a game that included remarkable swings in momentum, with neither side having a pronounced advantage. So it only appears fitting that Buffalo and Washington played a 2-2 overtime tie last night at MCI Center.
“It was a pretty good game,” Caps defenseman Calle Johansson said, noting that the two goalies, Buffalo’s Martin Biron and the Caps’ Olie Kolzig, both played very well.
The goalies kept their respective teams in the game at varying times, Biron especially in the first period when the Caps were all over the Sabres and Kolzig later when he was able to preserve the tie.
“It could have gone either way in overtime,” Johansson said, “but we might have had a couple better chances than they did.”
It didn’t start that way. Nearly all of the first half of the five-minute overtime was spent in the Washington end, with the Caps frantically trying to get the puck out of the zone. Once they did, the pressure went the other way.
Doug Gilmour, the forever young Sabres center, poke-checked a puck out of harm’s way 2:50 into the extra period to keep it tied, and exactly a minute later Trent Whitfield slid a shot through the crease that came within inches of making Washington a winner.
Earlier, the Caps had several excellent chances to beat Biron in the first period, but nothing got through. At the other end, Kolzig had to swallow a goal when his teammates failed to take advantage of an opportunity to clear the zone. That left Erik Rasmussen in position to rap a rebound behind the goalie for the only score of the period.
Biron wasn’t quite as unbeatable in the second, and this time the Caps took advantage. Chris Simon converted at 6:18, eight seconds after a power play ended, slamming a shot into the far right corner to tie the game. It was his sixth of the season.
Washington moved ahead three minutes later on a power play when Sergei Gonchar wound up just to the left of center 55 feet from the goal and drilled a shot through a screen and past Biron for his eighth of the season. Dmitri Khristich and Adam Oates assisted on the two second-period scores.
“It feels good to play for a team which competes every game,” said Khristich, who now has points in all five games he has played. “I am feeling more comfortable here now, but I didn’t really follow the team until I got here. Since I’ve been here, I think we’ve been playing pretty good. We’re getting points and it’s really a pleasure to be here.”
Both also had lengthy two-man advantages during the second, and both got through without damage. Buffalo’s Maxim Afinogenov, however, did not escape embarrassment when he was called for diving after his half-gainer did not meet the officials’ approval.
Miroslav Satan, long a thorn in the Caps’ side, slid a pass from Jean-Pierre Dumont between Kolzig’s legs five minutes into the third period to knot the issue 2-2. It was Satan’s 10th career goal against Washington.
Notes Caps fans more than filled a 5-ton Marine Corps Reserve truck with items for the organization’s Toys for Tots drive. More than 2,500 items were collected… . With Brendan Witt back in the lineup after a bout with the flu, the Caps had two healthy scratches, left wing Craig Berube and defenseman Sylvain Cote. Right wing Ulf Dahlen is still out with a sore back and also will miss tonight’s game in Buffalo, as will center Jan Bulis, recovering from a broken right thumb… .
The Caps are 1-5-1-0 in the second game of back-to-back sets; Buffalo is much better at 4-4-0-1, and tonight’s game is in Buffalo… . Dominik Hasek was expected to be the starter in both games, but Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said he was going with a gut feeling and put Biron in net… . Kolzig has been named one of Washingtonian magazine’s 16 “Washingtonians of the Year.”