- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 24, 2000

It was a game the Washington Capitals had to win to maintain the momentum they’ve been riding for two months. At this stage of the season, the Caps can’t afford any type of pause.

And pause the Caps didn’t. Steve Konowalchuk scored with less than four minutes left in regulation to knot the issue, and Chris Simon blasted in a shot from the top of the left circle 55 seconds into overtime as the Caps defeated the Florida Panthers 3-2 before 14,386 at MCI Center.

Washington moves within three points of the Panthers, who lead the Southeast Division and had a 16-point edge over the Caps at one point. The division winners gain home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

The victory extends the Caps’ team-record home winning streak to 10 games and lets the club tie the club record of 13 consecutive home games without a loss (11-0-2).

Washington bombarded Florida goalie Trevor Kidd with 44 shots during the game, but he kept Washington at bay until the end. The Caps entered overtime with a 4-on-3 advantage because Panthers left wing Peter Worrell took an extraordinarily dumb elbowing penalty with 12 seconds left in regulation, knocking Caps wing Richard Zednik to the ice.

Zednik lay on the ice for nearly five minutes before he was assisted to his feet and removed from the game. The initial report was a concussion, but he will be re-examined today.

“We had the extra guy, so there was lots of extra room,” Simon said. “[Sergei Gonchar] made a great play at the blue line gaining the zone. [Adam Oates] and I were on the other side. Adam went to the net. Gonchar slid it over to me. I just tried to get it low on the net because I saw Adam going there. I knew if I at least put it on net he’d be there for the rebound.”

Said goalie Olie Kolzig, who won his 100th career game last night: “When the big man is coming down unleashing a cannon, as soon as he was winding up I knew it was in. It was a huge win for us. It’s a step in helping [win the division]. The way we’re playing I don’t see us having any kind of a skid.”

Konowalchuk was present for the birth of his son Cole at 6 a.m. yesterday and was operating with little sleep. The goal was the 101st of his career and came off a nifty move. He backhanded the puck through his own legs and into the left corner of the net.

“I felt pretty good actually,” he said. “[The goal] is a little bonus. I kept the puck. I’m going to give it to my son. You could say [the goal] was lucky. I get most of my chances inside the crease, and I throw them to the net. Some go in, some don’t. When you’re team ties the game late, you have a little momentum going into overtime.

“With the roll we’re on, the way some of our players are playing and the number of home game we have [13], we believe we can win the division.”

Joe Murphy scored his first as a Cap just three minutes into the game. After that Washington had numerous chances to increase the lead but could not solve Kidd.

“It was just a matter of time,” defenseman Ken Klee said. “Even in the last few minutes our guys knew they were going to tie it up. It was the biggest win of the year. We’re winning at home, we know it and everybody else in the league knows it.”

Florida got a goal from Ray Sheppard with a two-man advantage midway through the first period and got its second from Viktor Kozlov on a penalty shot midway through the third.

Notes Mike Eagles was the lone healthy scratch for Washington. It was the 16th straight game he has missed. His last game was Jan. 19 against Florida… . Center Jeff Halpern, out with back spasms, continues to be listed as day-to-day by the Caps. The team hopes he will be ready to play against Boston tomorrow night.

Staff writer David Elfin contributed to this article.

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