- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 9, 2001

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. On the New Jersey side of the aisle, they were talking about finally righting the ship after a sluggish start. On the Washington side, the subject of defeat was being minimized it was, after all, only the third in the team's last 11 games.
The New Jersey Devils, trapping as effectively as ever, penned up the Caps yesterday and rolled to a 3-1 victory, leaving the winners with a four-game unbeaten streak and the losers with their first loss in five games.
Washington's only score came when Sergei Gonchar fired into a crowd from the right point. The puck had eyes, wriggling between legs and elbows until it found its way past the startled Martin Brodeur. But that goal came with just four minutes left, far too little, far too late.
The Caps had scored 18 goals in their previous four games and had chances against the Devils. But for reasons that are hard to determine, players start to hesitate before shooting when goals become scarce, good chances are bypassed and the shots that are taken are not as accurate as they need to be.
Washington's road record dropped to 4-10-3, with the Caps having been outscored by 20 goals away from MCI Center.
"They did a great job defensively, and we blinked first," coach Ron Wilson said. "This was set up as a defensive battle, and you've got to remain patient and we didn't. We didn't get the puck deep, or we turned it over in the second period, and they were just laying back in the weeds and took advantage of the turnovers and forced the issue."
Peter Bondra had quality chances in each of the periods . But Brodeur made the stops, his defense cleared the rebounds and the trap worked flawlessly.
The first period could be defined by the game's only physical contact of a fistic nature, the center ice meeting between the Caps' Stephen Peat and New Jersey's Jim McKenzie, a former Cap. The two paired off, took classic boxing stances and danced for 30 or so seconds, then grabbed each other in virtual hugs. No punches were thrown, and officials had to stretch the definition to assess each minors for roughing.
The issue was decided early in the second and started with a series of errors that might have been funny but for the result. The Devils started to break out of their end, and Gonchar collided with one of the officials, both falling to the ice and taking the defenseman out of the play. At the other end, Gonchar's partner, Joe Reekie, lost his footing and went into the boards full tilt, briefly injuring himself.
Bobby Holik, meanwhile, was carrying the puck down the right side, while Sergei Brylin motored down the left side, loosely covered by Adam Oates. With Gonchar and Reekie out of the way, Holik passed across to Brylin after Olie Kolzig committed, and the center had half the net to hit just 1:04 into the middle period.
Five minutes later defenseman Brian Rafalski uncorked a beautiful, perfectly timed and accurately aimed wrist shot that Kolzig could not defend, and the puck ended up in the upper right corner.
New Jersey scored again 6:28 into the third off another goal-mouth feed. This time Andreas Salomonsson fed Scott Gomez, who was behind Sylvain Cote on the 2-on-1, and all Gomez had to do was redirect the puck.
Meanwhile, Wilson went with the same lineup he has for the past few games, leaving center Trent Whitfield and defenseman Rob Zettler the healthy scratches. The club has one open roster spot but apparently has no immediate desire or need to fill it.

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