- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 22, 2001

PITTSBURGH Olie Kolzig, the Washington Capitals' usually reliable goalie, blamed himself for what happened, and not many disagreed with him.
Kolzig let in two scores he normally kicks aside without a second thought as the Pittsburgh Penguins went on to a 4-3 victory over Washington last night, with a rematch scheduled for tonight at MCI Center.
"I let the guys down tonight on two goals that normally don't go in on me," Kolzig said. "I thought we did a great job in the third period battling back but it's my job to keep it close so we don't have to battle back. … The bottom line is, I let the guys down."
Washington was holding onto a 1-0 lead midway through the game when suddenly Kolzig's game went south. Darius Kasparaitis redirected a pretty shot past the goalie, but then Kolzig let in two nightmares: a knuckler by Andrew Ference that the goalie lost and a shot by Toby Petersen that slipped between his leg and the post, a spot he knows he has to shut off.
That made it 3-1 Penguins at the end of two, and once again the Caps had a huge hole to climb out of in the third period. And once again, just like Wednesday night in Florida, the Caps couldn't get out.
Chris Simon scored the game's first goal for the Caps, and Peter Bondra and Sergei Gonchar added scores in the third. But backup Craig Billington allowed a Penguins goal one minute into the third, the winning margin.
It was Jaromir Jagr's first game back in the arena he called home for 11 seasons, and he was greeted with thunderous boos whenever he touched the puck. He has now faced his old teammates twice, tied once and lost once and assisted on two goals.
The Penguins seemed ripe for the taking. They had lost four in a row at home and gone winless in their last five overall. They were scoring an average of barely over two goals a game and didn't have most of their firepower.
The Caps seemed to be a team ready to go on a roll. After a disastrous 5-2 loss in Florida, the Caps appeared set to make up for a host of mistakes, get back to .500 and roll on. Instead, they missed defensive assignments and failed repeatedly to take advantage of chances that instead made Penguins goalie Johan Hedberg look more like the Steel Curtain that any Steeler ever did.
"If you add it all up, Hedberg was the difference," Caps coach Ron Wilson said. "He made a couple saves early in the game, he made two or three great saves of Jags. Jags … had some great opportunities, and this kid robbed him."
As in the Florida game, the Caps appeared lifeless for long periods, needing a spark to jolt them out of their slumber. In the third, it was Kasparaitis who did the job for Wilson with a couple of perfectly executed if poorly timed hits, and Washington scored two power play goals. Wilson's lament was that nobody on his roster could deliver the same message.
The Caps played without their leading scorer, wing Ulf Dahlen, who was out with a bruised foot. A team spokesman said Dahlen hoped to be back in the lineup tonight for the rematch.
Jagr was being booed heartily every time he touched the puck early in the game. It appeared the long-standing love affair Pittsburgh fans had with the five-time scoring champion had come to an end.
But that changed, if only for a few moments, at 14:25 of the first when a video tribute highlighting Jagr's 11 seasons in Pittsburgh was shown on the center-ice TV screens. The Penguin fans gave the star a standing ovation, and he responded by standing on the Cap bench and waving.
That done, fans resumed the catcalls whenever Jagr touched the puck, albeit with less intensity.
Meanwhile, the total number of man-games missed due to injury rose to 81 with Dahlen out due to an injury that occurred in practice Thursday. Also missing, besides long-termers Calle Johansson and Steve Konowalchuk, was right wing Dainius Zubrus, sidelined for three games with a groin strain. The lone healthy scratch was defenseman Rob Zettler.

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