- The Washington Times - Friday, March 2, 2001


The Washington Capitals put together a 12-game unbeaten streak and basically dominated the NHL for two months by playing their system, refusing to deviate an inch from their accepted form of disciplined play.

For the past two games, however, the Caps have drifted from their defense-first approach, and the result has been predictable. The 12-game unbeaten run has turned into a two-game losing streak, and longtime nemesis Pittsburgh is next.

Washington lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 in overtime at MCI Center last night, allowing a season-high 45 shots on goalie Olie Kolzig. Washington took a hit in its comfortable cushion over Carolina in the race for the Southeast Division title and home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Hurricanes blew past the New York Islanders 3-1 and narrowed the gap between themselves and the Caps to nine points.

Maple Leafs veteran Gary Roberts banked a shot off a post to beat Kolzig at 1:21 of OT, only the second overtime loss of the season for Washington. It spoiled a third-period comeback. Joe Sacco had rapped a rolling puck through Curtis Joseph at 11:42 to tie the game 2-2.

But by then the Caps were tired from chasing their own mistakes all over the ice, from missed defensive assignments, from passes that failed to connect and from a wide variety of mistakes that were seldom committed a week ago.

"I think the run we were on culminated with the [2-1] win in Carolina [on Saturday night]," Kolzig said. "After that, I think we had a bit of an emotional letdown. It was a pretty emotional ride we were on … and I think we're just suffering a letdown right now. Maybe these two games will get us thinking, 'Hey, this season is far from over. Carolina's still not that far away. They can catch us.' We're going to regroup and get back to work on Saturday."

Without Kolzig in goal, the game would have been a rout. Toronto has won four of its last five and is trying to amend for sloppy play that jeopardized its standing as a playoff-bound team. The Maple Leafs appeared far more playoff-ready last night.

"He had a great game," Caps coach Ron Wilson said of Kolzig's 42-save effort. "It's nice to see that Olie is coming into form, and we've got to play better in front of him."

Wilson did his best to round up support. The third period started with normal lines, but Wilson soon mixed them up, trying to find any combination that might produce some offense and better protection in front of his goalie.

Pieces of the second, third and fourth lines were on the ice when Sacco tied the score in the third.

Yanic Perreault scored twice in the second period, once on an unbelievable free pass through the offensive zone, offsetting Sergei Gonchar's power-play score early in the second period.

Another victim of the loss was Adam Oates' 11-game point streak (3-13-16) that started Feb. 1 against Toronto. It was the longest in the league at the time, but nothing compared to the 25-game point streak he had in 1993 with Boston.

"I'm not going to fret over it," Wilson said of the loss. "Mentally, we're not sharp. I've seen how good we can play, so we've just got to find a way to get out of this funk."

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