- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 19, 2000

The Washington Capitals would, as the old saying goes, have no luck at all if there wasn't bad luck.

Right now, the Caps have their fill of the latter.

Right wing Richard Zednik was suspended for four games by the NHL yesterday as a result of his altercation with Colorado defenseman Adam Foote during the overtime period Tuesday night. The Avalanche won the game 4-3 on the subsequent power play.

Zednik is one of only five Caps forwards who have scored in this goal-starved season. The goal-scoring leader is Peter Bondra, whose four goals are more than one-third of Washington's meager total of 11 in six games.

The bad news doesn't stop there for the winless (0-3-2-1) Caps. Brendan Witt, one of the team's top four defenseman, is questionable with a bruised elbow for tonight's home game against New Jersey. He sustained the injury very early in the Colorado game and did not return.

"I'm extremely disappointed," Washington general manager George McPhee said of the suspension. "I didn't think it was a suspendable offense. The player responded to a mugging. It wasn't an unprovoked slash or high stick it was a cross-check to get the guy out of his face. I don't know why that's suspendable. He got a five-minute major and a game misconduct. The player he hit got a scratch on the nose and never missed a shift."

Zednik was chasing a loose puck and was taken into the boards from behind by Foote. Zednik turned and did give the defenseman a two-hander across the nose, but he was retaliating.

What allowed that incident to take place was a play seconds before that was overlooked by referees Stephen Walkom and Dean Warren. One ranking NHL official yesterday conceded there should have been a call on the earlier play. Had there been, there would have been no confrontation between Zednik and Foote, and no need for a suspension.

The earlier incident started with 1:29 elapsed in overtime. Zednik had taken a shot, and goalie Patrick Roy deflected the puck wide, to his right. Zednik's center, Jan Bulis, was closing in on the loose puck while the right wing was headed for the front of the crease, expecting for a pass. It never came because Foote put his stick between Bulis' legs, tripped him and pushed him to the ice.

At that point Zednik picked up the chase for the loose puck, resulting in the confrontation with Foote. Foote was assessed a minor and Zednik a major, with the three-minute difference going up on the clock. It took Colorado 56 seconds to score and win the game.

Psychologically, it's a tough nut to crack for the struggling Caps, to have earned at least a tie against one of only two unbeaten teams in the league and then lose the game on what appears to be a blown call.

"If people called the right penalties, that situation never develops," coach Ron Wilson said yesterday. "I don't like the way Zednik got mauled. He responded with a high stick, and the other guy gets off with a minor. It's almost impossible, if you're killing off a 4-on-3 in overtime, to have any way to possibly win a game. It's Russian roulette with five bullets in the gun, and they get three clicks. We were dead from that point on."

It was the second four-game suspension ofZednik's career. The first was in November 1998 for high-sticking.

The Caps had played their best game of the season, not a complete 60-minute game but a solid 40-45 minutes once a so-so first period ended. They had overcome a 2-0 deficit and even taken a lead on two goals by Bondra and one by Ulf Dahlen.

"The positive was the way we bounced back; we played well enough to win," said Wilson.

The coach said Witt was much better yesterday than he was when he was taken out of the game. Wilson said Witt would play Saturday and might even be in the lineup tonight if he continues to respond well.

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