- The Washington Times - Friday, December 14, 2001

In the second period last night, Washington Capitals goalie Olie Kolzig let in a soft goal, the type he normally flicks aside as if brushing a mosquito off his arm. It was unlike him but not fatal, not the way the Caps are playing in the third period lately.

For the third time this season, the Caps rallied from a third-period deficit to cut down the Boston Bruins 2-1 with Kolzig rejecting 35 of 36 shots, many of them tough chances.

The Caps are now 4-1-2 in their last seven games and closed within six points of Southeast Division leader Carolina. The win gives Washington a 3-0-1 record against the Bruins in their last four matches, but it still trails by a lopsided margin in the series. That would figure; the Caps started off 0-21-5 against Boston when they were expansion babies.

Surprisingly, it was only Kolzig's first win against three losses and four draws in the regular season against his best friend, Boston goalie Byron Dafoe, with whom he was drafted by the Caps in 1989. Kolzig, however, is 4-2 against Dafoe in the playoffs.

"It's always a friendly rivalry when I've got my best friend at the other end," Kolzig said, probably thinking of the game a few years back when a brawl broke out at the FleetCenter in Boston and the two goalies playfully engaged in fisticuffs that more closely resembled a hugging and laughing match.

"There was more concern for me to get my team the win, regardless of who was playing at the other end," Kolzig said. "We're right on the verge of playing real good hockey. … I thought we did a good job tonight. I thought we did a great job [Tuesday] night against Pittsburgh, being down 2-1 coming into the third. We came back and tied.

"Tonight we were down going into the third against a team that really ties you up when they have the lead. They played [Wednesday] night, and we were able to take advantage of that. That's a great sign, where in the last two games we were able to come back in the third period."

Jamie Rivers prevented Kolzig from getting his second shutout of the season when his 40-footer slipped between the goalie's body and right arm 13:27 into the second period. From Kolzig's reaction, he knew instantly he had made a mistake, but it was his last of the night.

His team redeemed him in the third. First, Dmitri Khristich picked off Scott Pellerin's pass, and that started the play to tie the game. Khristich hit Matt Pettinger as he passed in front of Dafoe, and the left wing patiently waited for the goalie to commit. Once Dafoe did, Pettinger flicked the puck into the cage 5:17 into the period.

The winner didn't come until 11:58 of the period, with Ulf Dahlen once again in the right spot at the right time. With the Caps closing in, Boston native Joe Sacco tried to pass down low, but the puck was deflected and started bouncing. Michael Jordan would have had no trouble, but it was bothersome for a hockey player trying to corral it with a stick.

Dahlen later said it was bouncing "like a Ping-Pong ball" when he reached out and batted it behind Dafoe.

All that was left was to kill 8:02 off the clock, the last 94 seconds with Boston up 6-5.

"You strive on that. That's the position you love being in," Kolzig said. "Having the lead, they pull the goalie, they put so much pressure on you, you want to just shut the door and take the life out of them. That's playoff hockey. That's what we're playing right now."

Meanwhile, center Andrei Nikolishin missed his first game of the season for the Caps as a medical scratch with a bruised left leg, club officials said. He was hurt in the second period of the Pittsburgh game on Tuesday night and did not return. He has six goals and 19 points centering the first line.

Having Nikolishin out meant reshuffling some personnel. Khristich moved from third-line center to the first line, Jeff Halpern took over the third line and Trent Whitfield, who had been a healthy scratch for six consecutive games, was the pivot for the fourth unit.

The manpower situation was further muddled in the first period when right wing Dainius Zubrus sustained what was described as a slight groin strain and did not return. He was listed as day-to-day.

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