- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 8, 2001


DENVER Richard Zednik, Jeff Halpern and Steve Konowalchuk scored to back up Craig Billington's goaltending as the Washington Capitals got some revenge for a game they felt got away, defeating the Colorado Avalanche 3-1 last night before the 268th consecutive sellout at Pepsi Center.

Patrick Roy, who owns the NHL record for most wins in a career by a goaltender (472), became unglued in the third period and let in a free one when he came very far out of the crease to play a puck but nobody covered for him. Halpern's 100-foot-plus backhand got across the goal line before Roy could get back.

Konowalchuk added an empty-net goal at 19:40 of the third period.

Roy bettered Terry Sawchuk's record of 447 wins Oct. 17 at MCI Center 4-3 on an overtime goal. The Caps felt they should have won the game.

Zednik broke the scoreless duel 6:37 into the third period last night when he went out of character and showed some patience. He had the puck behind the Colorado net and held it there while things set up. He emerged and circled around the left corner of the net; moved past Adam Oates, who was holding Stephane Yell to form a screen; and whipped a backhand past Roy, his 11th of the season and his second in as many games.

The Avalanche finally scored at 13:51 with Zednik off for slashing. Peter Forsberg carried the puck into the zone, circled the cage and centered to where Joe Sakic had an easy goal, poking it through on the power play.

Caps coach Ron Wilson said he was playing a hunch when he decided to insert Billington over the well-used Olie Kolzig (47 appearances to Billington's seven this season) because "he used to play for Colorado."

True enough, and some things don't change. When he was with the Avalanche, Billington played well but didn't receive much offensive support. His Colorado record of 29-23-7 could have been much better with another goal here and there.

He is having somewhat of the same problem with Washington. Before his first win of the season, 4-2 over Atlanta on New Year's Day, Billington had a record of 0-3-2, but in three of those five games the Caps scored just one goal for him.

The shots were 14-4 against the Caps last night in the first period, and this time the shot differential was a clear indication of which team was carrying the play. Washington's first shot on Roy didn't come until the game was nearly nine minutes old, a backhand attempt by Zednik.

Billington's goaltending clearly was the difference in keeping the first 20 minutes scoreless, at least from the Caps' point of view. His deepest spot of trouble came 90 seconds into the game, when he seemingly lost sight of the puck just outside the crease. Caps center Andrei Nikolishin won the race to the loose puck and cleared it. His toughest save of the period came at 4:00 when Alex Tanguay got everything behind a short-range blast, but this time Billington saw it all the way and gobbled it up, making it seem like a routine stop.

Washington's slow awakening process came full circle in the second period, and the Caps took charge for much of the 20 minutes. They outshot Colorado 9-7, but the domination was much clearer.

Three times during the second period Washington had opportunities to snap the goal-less streak but failed. The first came at 1:17 when Konowalchuk broke free on a shorthanded breakaway. He was aiming for the short side corner, but his drive nicked Roy's left pad and flew wide.

Fourteen minutes in, the Halpern line (with Konowalchuk and Matt Herr, replacing the flu-ridden Ulf Dahlen) created considerable havoc down low and had two quality chances, both of which Roy stopped.

A little more than two minutes later, Dmitri Khristich rocked a puck off the crossbar, but it flew off in the wrong direction, at least as far as the Caps were concerned.

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