- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 23, 2001

All things considered, a tie was a most welcome development last night for the Washington Capitals, a team that continues to make a science out of playing from behind.
This time it was a three-goal deficit. But Chris Simon and Peter Bondra scored in the last 51/2 minutes of regulation last night and Olie Kolzig made the deadlock work against huge odds as the Caps fought back for a 4-4 overtime draw against Pittsburgh.
The Caps certainly can't be pleased with their performance during the past three games, two losses and a tie that left them two games under .500 when they thought they would be well above that by this time.
Washington played the hopelessly inept Panthers in Florida on Wednesday night after reaching .500. They left the Sunshine State battered and bruised and on the wrong end of a 5-2 score.
Two nights later marked the return of Jaromir Jagr to the scene of his many triumphs at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh against a team that had lost four straight and was winless in five. The Caps proved to be the magic tonic for the Penguins and lost 4-3. Kolzig was pulled at the end of the second period for failing to stop the puck when it counted.
Last night was much of the same. The Caps made just enough mistakes to compound the problems Kolzig was having early in the contest, and Washington was down 4-1 with 31/2 minutes left in the second.
It was the third night in a row the Caps have faced such a challenge, and at least they're learning. They failed to get even the first two times but last night earned a draw.
"We made some mistakes, but we should be proud in a game like this to steal a point from them," said Bondra, who has 23 goals this season. "It feels good, and hopefully it will start something good for us."
Robert Lang and Stephane Richer put the Penguins up 2-0 in the first before Jagr scored the first goal against Pittsburgh in his 12-year NHL career. Jagr's score came 30 seconds into the second period, but Kris Beech, who went to the Penguins in the deal that brought Jagr here, matched it, and Alexei Kovalev put the visitors up by three at 16:30 of the second.
Then the Caps started chipping away. Adam Oates, who also had an assist, redirected Brendan Witt's drive from the left point to narrow the gap to two goals before the third started and give the Caps some hope.
That hope started to fade as the third period went on. Finally, with the Caps on a power play, Simon poked and poked at a puck lodged under goalie Johan Hedberg and worked it loose enough to slide into the cage, putting the Caps down by just one with more than five minutes left. Hedberg bumped an official while trying to protest the score, but that was allowed to pass.
Then, as time was expiring and with Kolzig out for an extra attacker, Bondra shot from along the right goal line with no angle. The puck had eyes and tied the game with a second to spare.
"It was a little bit lucky," Bondra said. "The puck was there, and I didn't think I had any other chance but to bank it off his body and it went in. I was excited. It was a big game for us, a big point."
It is rare for a team to draw a penalty in overtime and almost unheard of for a team to draw two. The Caps did just that last night. Sergei Gonchar was called for holding and Andrei Nikolishin for delay of game (covering the puck) six seconds before Gonchar's infraction was to expire. The Caps killed both to give them five kills for the night and 12 straight against the Penguins this season.
Kolzig, who was not at his best early in the game, was the star for the final 15 minutes of the game, turning aside everything that came his way and playing the way Caps fans know he can. He faced a power play for nearly half the overtime period and had tired players in front of him, with coach Ron Wilson benching some players and trying to get by with the ones he thought could get the job done.
"Olie did a great job," Wilson said. "We had the point, but you don't want to give up another point. That would have left an awful taste in our mouth."
Meanwhile, Ulf Dahlen, one of the team's leading point producers all season, missed his second straight game with a bruised foot. And right wing Dainius Zubrus missed his fourth straight, sidelined with a groin strain.
Only four players have played all 36 games this season. The team has recorded 85 man-games lost to injury so far.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide