- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 24, 2001

For a long time last night, it appeared that New York Rangers rookie goalie Dan Blackburn could stop anything shot in his direction, ICBMs included. And it looked like the Washington Capitals were headed for their fifth shutout of the season.
Then, in a span of five minutes at the end of the second and five minutes to start the third, Blackburn's world fell apart. By the time he came to, the Caps had been scoring at a rate of once every two minutes, and he was en route to a 6-2 loss.
Adam Oates, Ulf Dahlen, Jaromir Jagr, Andrei Nikolishin twice and Dainius Zubrus all scored for the Caps. Zubrus' was his long overdue and richly deserved first of the season. Four of the Washington scores were on the power play.
The game was delayed for more than 10 minutes late in the third period when a large-scale brawl erupted involving every player on the ice, Blackburn and Olie Kolzig included. It was ruled that the Rangers had instigated the melee, and the Caps played most of the rest of the game on a power play.
One of the fights involved New York center Eric Lindros, 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds, fighting the smallest player on the ice, 5-11, 200-pound Trent Whitfield. The Caps were short-handed when the bouts started, trying to kill a penalty.
More fighting, this time of a lesser nature, broke out at the end of the game.
Igor Ulanov, a Cap for three games in the spring of 1995, opened the window for the Caps right when it appeared the Rangers would ride out a second-period firestorm. Washington poured 27 shots in on Blackburn, bettering by two the club record for shots in a period set against Tampa Bay in February 1998.
Ulanov has never been known for being subtle, and that has been the case twice against the Caps this season. Last night during a dustup in front of the Rangers' goal, the New York defenseman reached into a pile of players and sucker-punched Chris Simon in the face, knocking the left wing to the ice.
"I remember going to the front of the net, and then I'm down on the ice," Simon said. "I don't know if he punched me or crosschecked me or what. When I came in the [locker] room, I was kind of dizzy. It took a while to get back. Everyone told me what happened, and the guys said he sucker-punched me. I just blacked out there for a little bit."
The Caps, now down two men, went after the Rangers, with Lindros finally taking the much smaller Whitfield down next to the boards and pounding him.
"We stuck together out there tonight," Simon said. "Every guy has a guy, and the goalies are in there, everybody sticking up for each other. Olie made some great saves; he kept us in the game early when they were on top of us. He gave us a chance to win tonight."
Ulanov, who had been shadowing Jagr every time the right wing took the ice, was assessed a match penalty for deliberate attempt to injure. Ulanov and defenseman Dale Purinton were each suspended for seven games for high sticking during an Oct. 10 game in New York against the Caps. And it was Ulanov who slewfooted Jagr in that game, causing the wing's knee injury.
The Rangers were leading 2-1 when Ulanov committed his latest senseless bit of violence; it was 3-2 Caps by the time his penalty had expired.
New York tried to pound the Caps into submission, but it failed to work. Simon started rattling New York bodies with his massive frame, and the Rangers were a little more reluctant to attack.
Oates' score, the Caps' first, came one minute before Ulanov turned the tide in Washington's favor. Oates' shot was the Caps' 28th of the game, and up to that point Blackburn who was playing junior hockey at this time last season had turned everything aside. By the time Nikolishin got around to his second of the night, it was Washington's 45th shot.
Meanwhile, Dmitri Khristich, the Caps' $3.25 million right wing (Toronto is paying part of the freight), was a healthy scratch for the seventh straight game and the 15th time in 22 games this season. Joining him as a spectator was defenseman Joe Reekie for the third straight game. Right wing Stephen Peat was out with a cold.


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