- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 4, 2001


For a good portion of the second period last night, the Washington Capitals dominated the New Jersey Devils, the defending Stanley Cup champs and one of the favorites this year when the playoffs begin next week.
That's the upside. The downside is that the Devils toyed with the Caps for most of the rest of the game and had no trouble posting a 6-4 decision in a game at MCI Center that was not as close as the score indicates.
For a good part of the contest, it was an embarrassment for Washington, which has lost three in a row and eight of its last 10. The slide that has overtaken the club is now approaching a freefall. The team isn't playing well in virtually any aspect at least not as well as it was a month ago.
And the playoffs start a week from today.
Goalie Olie Kolzig admitted he has to play better for the club to do anything at all in the postseason. That fact couldn't have been any clearer last night. The game hinged on two goals the Devils scored in the last minute of the second period, both of them stoppable.
"That last shift of the second period, basically, it cost us the game," coach Ron Wilson said. The cause of the letdown was "some mistakes by people you would hope wouldn't make those mistakes at this time of year. We've got to fix those mistakes, that's all."
It wasn't only Kolzig who had a bad night. The Devils feasted on the Adam Oates line that included Chris Simon and Dmitri Khristich the trio was a combined minus-11. Calle Johansson and Brendan Witt, the top defensive pair, were each minus-2.
"I'm going to have to reassess who we're putting out there in certain situations," Wilson said, referring to a short-handed Devils goal that was executed with the smoothness of a veteran pickpocket. "I'm going to have to be brutally honest about how some people are playing, and we've got to reassess where we are."
New Jersey had some luck from the start. Less than five minutes in, Patrik Elias tried to pass through the top of the crease to catch Kolzig leaning the wrong way. The pass struck Caps defenseman Joe Reekie's left foot and glanced into the net. Bobby Holik scored 10 minutes later, putting a 40-footer through a partial screen and into the left side for a 2-0 lead.
Washington got one of them back at 16:07 when Sergei Gonchar scored just his second goal in his last 10 games. Jeff Halpern got the draw back to the defenseman, and he ripped a shot from the top of the left circle.
Washington appeared to take command during the first 19 minutes of the middle period, but the league insists all 20 minutes be played. That was the killer.
Trevor Linden tied it at 6:28 when he tried to center from behind the goal line and ended up with a gift. Goalie Martin Brodeur stuck his stick out, the puck glanced off it, then off one of his skates and into the net. It was Linden's second as a Cap.
Colin White and ex-Cap Ken Sutton took minors at 8:00, giving the Caps a two-man advantage for two minutes. At 9:21 Adam Oates sent a no-look pass through the crease, catching the Devils by surprise but not Andrei Nikolishin on the other side. He flipped the puck into the top shelf, and Washington was ahead for the first time 3-2.
The tables turned in the embarrassing final minute. First, Bob Corkum sliced a long shot over Kolzig's left arm at 19:20. Then, 22 seconds later, Elias tapped in a shot by Petr Sykora that had trickled through Kolzig's legs and was slowly rolling toward the goal as New Jersey regained the lead 4-3.
The Devils added to Washington's embarrassment in the third. First, Elias scored short-handed and made it look remarkably easy at 4:16, and five minutes later Alexander Mogilny made it 6-3 on another easy shot.
Steve Konowalchuk rapped in his 22nd of the season at 12:45 of the third, but it was too little, too late.

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