- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 31, 2001


The two teams tied for the most victories in the Eastern Conference since Dec. 1 squared off last night.

And they stayed that way.

The Ottawa Senators and Washington Capitals battled for 65 minutes and could do no more than produce an entertaining 1-1 deadlock. That, perhaps, was fitting enough because both teams played well defensively and limited scoring chances.

The Capitals and Senators have won 16 games each since the start of December. Appropriately, the season series remains tied at 1-1-1.

Jeff Halpern scored halfway through the first period for the Caps but committed a costly penalty in the first minute of the third that led to Daniel Alfredsson's power-play goal to knot the contest.

"It was a bad penalty, especially at that time of the game when you're up by a goal," said Halpern, who was called for boarding Karel Rachunek while Washington was already shorthanded. It gave the Senators a short-lived two-man advantage Ottawa's Martin Hossa negated the advantage when he held Adam Oates' stick 30 seconds later and was sent off.

"When I went in I thought I was hitting him with my shoulder and he sort of turned into it," Halpern said. "I had committed myself to hitting him already, something I wish I had back. It was a turning point in the game, so it's definitely something you want back."

It opened the door for Ottawa to get back in the game, an opening the Senators needed because Washington and goalie Olie Kolzig were playing near flawless hockey.

Playing 4-on-3, Ottawa won the draw and moved the puck back to Wade Redden on the left point. He got it across to Alexei Yashin, who ripped a pass into the left circle, where Alfredsson's stick was already in motion.

"I don't think anyone would have gotten to that," Kolzig said. "The guy made a nice pass through the seam, and Alfredsson one-timed it. Hats off, they made a nice play. That's how you diagram it: You try to isolate one player, pass it by him and get the one-timer from the open guy. You got to either be lucky or be elastic man."

For a long time, Washington's goal seemed like it might stand up.

Steve Konowalchuk and Ulf Dahlen were creating their normal mayhem below the goal line, with Halpern in the slot waiting for an opening. Konowalchuk drew defenders to him and passed behind him to Dahlen. Halpern, understanding what was about to happen, broke for the crease. Dahlen hit Halpern, who cranked a shot past Patrick Lalime for a 1-0 lead.

"It was a great pass by Ulfie and great forecheck by Konowalchuk," Halpern said. "It's the type of thing where it's my stick at the end of it, but it's more of those two guys doing all the work."

The teams split the two previous games this season, but both of those had been wide-open affairs compared to last night.

"You had to battle for space out there, battle for loose pucks, a lot of intensity in this game," Ottawa coach Jacques Martin said. "We battled back in the second and third period and played pretty well, very physical, getting involved a little more."

Said Caps coach Ron Wilson: "[The Senators] wanted to do a better job defensively [than they had in a 4-1 loss to Montreal on Saturday], and they concentrated on it, especially in the second and third when we didn't get much offense going."

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