- The Washington Times - Friday, April 6, 2001

CAPS 3, PANTHERS 0

The Washington Capitals got back on track last night but nobody was willing to claim they were all the way back to where they once were.

With Olie Kolzig pitching his fifth shutout of the season, the Caps overwhelmed the Florida Panthers 3-0, winning their 40th game of the season. Washington has 94 points, the sixth best finish in team history.

Steve Konowalchuk, Jeff Halpern and Dainius Zubrus scored for Washington to back Kolzig's strong effort in goal. Among other things, Kolzig and his teammates prevented the Panthers' Pavel Bure from reaching the 60-goal plateau. The Russian star had two against the Caps in their last meeting.

"I don't want to be in the record book as the goalie who gave up his 60th," Kolzig said, "but I think it was more important that we shut the whole team down. If we were too concerned with Bure, there were other guys who could have burned us."

Even though Washington took a penalty in the first minute and thereby was presented with the opportunity to continue its disorganized recent play, the Caps maintained their cool and played a steady, smooth game. Kolzig gave credit to a one-hour-plus players-only meeting Wednesday that opened up the avenues of communication.

"We executed very well," coach Ron Wilson said. "We kept the game simple, the power play seemed to have a little more energy, but the bottom line was execution and not who the opponent is. It's doing things right for 60 minutes, and everybody did."

The Caps had a goal in every period. The score remained reasonably close, thanks to Florida goalie Trevor Kidd, the outcome did not seem in doubt.

"We got away from our defensive game for a few games," Kolzig said. "We had a good meeting [Wednesday], we had a good practice and I think the guys responded great tonight."

The shutout was the 21st of Kolzig's career, extending his club record.

The Caps had to kill a five-minute major drawn by Chris Simon six minutes into the second period, as the game appeared to turn there. Florida got six shots on Kolzig during the extended penalty, but the big goalie never seemed to be in danger of giving anything up.

Much of the credit goes to the forwards and defensemen in front of him who did more than stand around like statues, screening him from seeing what was taking place around the crease. There were rebounds, but nothing like the number he had faced and the team had allowed in recent games. The improvement by most players was easily noticeable.

Washington took a 1-0 lead 12:24 into the game on a power play, Konowalchuk ripping a slap shot past Kidd from the left circle. The goal was Konowalchuk's 23rd of the season, which tied his career high.

It became a 2-0 game 4:18 into the second period on a strange play. Defenseman Rob Zettler shot from the left point, but the puck deflected ever so slightly off Konowalchuk and missed the crease to the right. That's where Halpern scooped it up and deposited it into the empty side of the net.

Washington scored off a 5-on-3 six minutes into the third, Zubrus getting his first as a Cap (and 13th overall). Adam Oates waited for defenseman Paul Laus to turn his back to the play, then passed through the crease and Zubrus hammered it into the net.

Chris Simon's game ended at 6:13 of the second period when he laid out Florida Anders Eriksson with an elbow to the right eye, forcing the defenseman out of the game for repairs. Simon, who had played just one game after missing 11 of 14 with a shoulder injury, drew an elbow major and a game misconduct. And if the league checks the video, there might be a suspension, considering the left wing's track record.

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