- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 29, 2001

CAPS 7, HURRICANES 0

The Washington Capitals scored a season-high number of goals last night and routed the Carolina Hurricanes 7-0 at MCI Center, moving them within a tie of clinching a playoff berth as the season winds down.
Coupled with Boston's win over Toronto, the Caps' magic number for the playoffs fell to one, meaning they need to gain a point or have the Bruins fail to gain a point to clinch a playoff spot. With last night's victory, the number fell to two for Washington to win the Southeast Division for the second straight year, meaning any combination of two points earned by the Caps or lost by Carolina would earn them the title.
It was as lopsided a game as the Caps have won this season, although there were a few times during their recent five-game losing streak when they seemed to be as hapless as the Hurricanes appeared last night.
The shutout went to Olie Kolzig, his fourth of the season and the 20th of his career, the latter extending his own team record.
The victory came after a pregame ceremony honoring veteran defenseman Calle Johansson for playing his 1,000th NHL game. Johansson also had a goal in the game.
Coach Ron Wilson was more impressed with the improved defense his team displayed than its offensive explosion.
"We played solid defense, and that's why we scored seven goals," Wilson said. "We shut them down in the neutral zone and frustrated them, obviously. It was not unlike the game we played in Carolina [on March 15] in terms of limiting space, and everybody on our team was on the same page. Fortunately, some of the shots went in, we shot the puck intelligently and we never backed off in the third period. We were doing all the little things well.
"Now we've got to come up with a similar performance in Carolina [tomorrow night]. I'm sure they're going to bounce back."
The official signal that the game was over came 13:30 into the middle period when coach Paul Maurice pulled goalie Arturs Irbe, who until last night had a goals-against average of 0.98 in three starts vs. the Caps this season. Last night he allowed four goals on 21 shots and looked tired. It was his 71st game of the season.
To say Irbe was not the goalie he had been against the Caps earlier in the season would be a fair assessment. But it would also be more than fair to say the Latvian had not seen Washington play with the intensity it did last night from the start of the game. The Caps were rested. They had not played since Saturday night, but they would have been just as hyper had they played a game yesterday morning.
The barrage started at 1:28 of the first period when Jeff Halpern scored one of his easier goals this season, his career-high 19th. He was in the right side of the slot, 20 feet out and ignored. Steve Konowalchuk fed the center, who had time to set up the puck the way he wanted before he shot. Even with the delay, Irbe appeared unprepared.
Halpern's line got things started again in the second, just 1:38 in. This time Ulf Dahlen, who assisted on the first goal, shot over a defender into the top right corner.
Three minutes later Andrei Nikolishin's centering pass deflected in off Sandis Ozolinsh's stick, with Trevor Linden picking up an assist, his first point as a Cap. Johansson's slap shot slipped through at 13:30, and Irbe was gone.
Less than two minutes later Tyler Moss faced his first shot and Linden had his first goal as a Cap. Halpern added his second of the night in the third period, and Brendan Witt whacked in his third to round out the scoring.
"That was great that Olie got a shutout, and it was great that Trevor Linden was able to get a couple points and relax," Wilson said. "He's been looking real good. It was just a matter of time. It was good that everybody played so well. There wasn't a weak spot in our lineup."


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