- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 7, 2001

CAPS 5, ISLANDERS 1

The New York Islanders didn't have much of a home ice advantage last night at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, but that has been the case for the past few years. And with the usual small crowd, kept even smaller by a strong winter storm sweeping the Northeast, it was hard to tell who was the crowd favorite.

That was fine with the Washington Capitals, who took advantage of every opening that was presented and waltzed to a 5-1 victory, the club's eighth game in a row on the road without a loss (7-0-1). The win raised Washington's road record to 15-15-4 after being as much as eight games below .500 this season.

"We were the only division-leading team with a road record under .500, so it's good to get back there," Caps coach Ron Wilson said. "It's good that we're competing [on the road] now with the playoffs coming up."

The Caps get a chance to extend those marks tonight when they play the Penguins in Pittsburgh. After that, Washington is home for five in a row.

Washington captain Adam Oates had a goal and three assists to lead the Caps to the win. It was his sixth game with three or more points this season and he made it look like child's play. Jan Bulis, Sylvain Cote shorthanded, Steve Konowalchuk and Peter Bondra shorthanded also scored for the Caps.

"We're playing with a lot of confidence right now," Oates said. "We're playing more of a defensive scheme, and it suits us well."

Washington now has 80 points on the season and moved 11 points ahead of idle Carolina in the race for the Southeast Division title. The Hurricanes have a game in hand but must win to keep pace or fall further behind with time starting to become a factor. The two teams face each other three more times.

Last night was the ninth straight win for the Caps in Nassau Coliseum and raised the team's record to 17-0-2 over New York since the last Islanders win 2-0 on March 2, 1997. The teams are now even at 69-69-12 after 27 seasons of combat.

"We haven't suffered any letdowns when we've played against them," Wilson said. "We've had letdowns against other teams the expansion teams, for example, and the few times we've let down against [the Islanders], our goaltending has been outstanding."

Bulis opened the scoring five minutes into the game with his first in his last 14 games, a short-range blast off rookie goalie Rick DiPietro's glove. Oates assisted. Eight minutes later Oates and Bulis played give-and-go with Oates finishing off the play, slicing a shot between the goalie's pads. It was Bulis' first two-point night of the season.

"He might have been a little screened on those goals, but they were a bit soft," Islanders interim coach Lorne Henning said of his rookie goalie.

Nine minutes into the middle period, with the Caps shorthanded, Oates and Cote slowly came down the ice and had defender Mathieu Biron between them. Oates made DiPietro commit then passed the puck between the defenseman's legs so all Cote had to do was redirect the puck for his sixth goal of the season.

As the second period was winding down Jeff Halpern's line was grinding away when Konowalchuk went to the net to screen. Defenseman Brendan Witt shot and Konowalchuk deflected it in as he was being crosschecked to the ice. It was his 19th goal of the season.

The Caps were casually killing a roughing penalty to goalie Olie Kolzig when Oates broke free again, this time with Bondra. As the two went in, Bondra took the pass and easily got his 37th of the season.

Kolzig lost his shutout bid 7 and 1/2 minutes into the third when Mariusz Czerkawski circled behind the cage on a power play and whipped a shot in before the goalie had a chance to reverse sides.

Notes The coaches had hoped right wing Dmitri Khristich (bruised foot) would be ready for last night but he'll wait another night. Defenseman Rob Zettler (bruised shoulder) skated yesterday and might be ready in the near future, maybe tonight in Pittsburgh… . Penguins observers who have watched Mario Lemieux since he came back from his retirement said he has looked better in the last two days of practice than he has in weeks. Not exactly the news the Caps were looking for. Lemieux felt so good after yesterday's drill that he said he would play in the upcoming back-to-back series, tonight against Washington and tomorrow night against Atlanta. The Penguins have not played since losing in Washington last Saturday night.

• The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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