A few weeks ago, goalie Olie Kolzig said last night, the Washington Capitals might have folded when faced with some adversity, down by a goal twice and up against another goaltender who seemed bent on having career games in MCI Center.
But the Caps didn’t fold last night. They fought from behind twice, got the game-winner with 3:58 left, overcame some rough moments in the closing seconds and beat Tampa Bay 3-2 on Ulf Dahlen’s eighth goal of the season.
It gave the Caps a modest two-game winning streak, only the second of the season for the Caps (the first was in mid-October). Washington had to overcome a 45-save effort by the Lightning’s Kevin Weekes to get the victory on goals by Jaromir Jagr (also two assists) and Sergei Gonchar, with Frantisek Kucera assisting on one goal and Adam Oates on another, his 14th of the year.
“We’re scrambling for something to build on, we got that win in the last game (4-1 over Anaheim) and we’re playing a great game,” said Dahlen, who with eight goals and eight assists is off to his best start in years. “The puck came right back to me, so I just whacked it again and this time I got it up. It was a great pass [from Jagr] and from Adam, too. Those two guys, they can sure pass the puck. It’s pretty scary. I’m just going to try to get open.”
The winning goal came as the Caps applied heavy pressure on Weekes and smothered the crease with white jerseys. Dahlen belted Jagr’s initial pass, but the goalie made the stop, He had no chance at “It was an outstanding effort,” Caps coach Ron Wilson said. “We maintained our poise and composure where maybe a week ago we wouldn’t have. We hung in there and kept chipping away. Weekes played unbelievable; he made a lot of huge saves. You worry, you’re pressing so hard you get weary and maybe you’re not going to have the energy at the end, but we did. A lot of guys played some of their best hockey of the season.”
That would have to include Jagr, who seemed more at ease last night than he has been in some time, which appeared evident with Wilson double shifting him. He was plus-3 with six shots on goal and performed at a high rate once Wilson moved Oates to a spot between the right wing and Dahlen.
“Oates is a great passer, and Dahlen likes to play along the boards,” Jagr said of his linemates. “This is helping me a lot; I’m having a tough time going into the corner with my knee. They are doing all the dirty work and allowing me to go to the front of the net.”
Dahlen, who has played some of the steadiest hockey of the season for the Caps, moved into a tie for second place in team scoring with 16 points, one behind Gonchar. Kucera, who a week ago was playing defense for the Czech national team, had another excellent game and is now plus-5 defensively in just three games.
“You try to contain a team like that, but they have a lot of weapons,” said Lightning coach John Tortorella. “The bottom line is, we were in the game 2-2 with five minutes left, and we turned the puck over. So no matter what happened before that, how you got there, you try and win the game. And we turned it over.”
Washington is now 7-0-0 against the Lightning at MCI Center and 10-1-1 against Tampa Bay overall in its last 12.