- The Washington Times - Monday, December 31, 2001

It was hardly a defensive gem loosely defended might be the best term to describe yesterday's 5-5 overtime draw at MCI Center between the Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals.

Highly contested is another term that could be used because it involved a possible four-point turn in the standings between two teams that have battled for the Southeast Division lead for the past three seasons.

In the end, the teams remained right where they started, the Hurricanes 11 points in front of the Caps. The Caps lead the season series 2-1-1 and Washington still owns three games in hand.

"I felt like we could have got two points out of this game," said defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who had two goals. But the Caps had to rally from two-goal deficits three times to finally pull into the lead, only to see the visitors rally in the third period to gain the tie.

"We played very hard and we were behind in the first period but we were fighting hard," Gonchar said. "In my opinion, we should have won this game."

But nine minutes into the first period Washington was down 3-1. Starting goalie Craig Billington, who did not appear to be at fault for any of the first three goals, was replaced by Olie Kolzig in an effort to shake things up. It worked to the extent Washington rallied to take a 5-4 lead into the third period, however, there were defensive lapses that allowed the Hurricanes to grab the important road point.

For instance, center Rod Brind'Amour was alone at the right side of the net and unchallenged with less than four minutes left in regulation. He shot from behind the goal line, hoping to bank the puck off Kolzig's back. And because nobody was checking him, he had no problem teeing up the puck and scoring.

"Carolina is a good team and they hung around and got a lucky bounce and managed to come out with a point," coach Ron Wilson said. "I was really happy with how hard we battled through the whole game. Despite being down a couple goals at times we kept on battling. We showed a lot of character. We never gave up."

Both teams had excellent opportunities to score even more: Carolina failed to score with a two-man advantage of 1:02, the Caps didn't get a goal when they had a similar situation for nearly two minutes. Washington's kill was truly impressive because two of the team's top penalty-killers, Adam Oates and Ken Klee, were the penalized individuals.

Washington thought it had pushed through a score during its try with the advantage but a goal by Jaromir Jagr was disallowed when the wing was charged with deliberately kicking the puck into the net.

"I didn't think I kicked it in," said Jagr, who had three assists and played well for the second game in a row. "The pass [from Peter Bondra] went in front of me and hit my skate and went in. I didn't kick it."

Besides Gonchar's pair, the Caps got goals from Bondra, Chris Simon and Andrei Nikolishin.

"We had a real bad start," Jagr acknowledged. "Certainly we had a chance to win the game, we came back and were up 5-4. Then they tied the game. It was a pretty exciting game and I think a point is good for both teams.

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