- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 4, 2001

ST. LOUIS For 45 minutes last night, Washington made a game of it as the Capitals and St. Louis Blues staged an excellent defensive battle, each team scoring once.
Then the roof caved in for the Caps.
The Blues converted off one excellent play nearly midway in the third period, but a poor decision by the Caps created a second opportunity for St. Louis and the Caps lost a chance to pick up a road point.
St. Louis scored three times in the third period to beat the Caps 4-1, extending Washington's winless streak to four games (0-2-2). During that span the Caps have scored a total of three goals and two of them came in a 2-2 tie Friday night.
The Caps were playing shorthanded, a situation which worsened before the game ended. Offensive stars Jaromir Jagr and Adam Oates and defensive stalwart Steve Konowalchuk are all out with injuries and defenseman Sergei Gonchar joined them late in the second period. Gonchar went down with what is being described as a slight groin strain. Coach Ron Wilson said it was a minor injury.
"They made a great play on the second goal," Wilson said. "We were out of position, get the puck deep for a couple shifts in a row and allowed them to get a 3-on-2 counterattack and [Pavol Demitra] made a great shot, an excellent shot.
"We're down 2-1 and we still weren't out of it but that late in the game we just have the energy to get anything mounted after that."
With players like Jagr and Oates out of the lineup, 10 of the 18 skaters the Caps used last night had not scored a goal this season. The only Washington goal came from Peter Bondra, his 10th, which gave the Caps a brief lead midway through the second.
"We had our chances, we hit a post," Wilson said of one of Bondra's shots. "The turning point save in the game is the one [Brent] Johnson made on Trevor Linden right at the end of the second period. He made the save on Linden right in front of the net, and we could have gone in after playing two great periods up 2-1. But their guy made the big saves when they needed them."
Until the third period break through, Olie Kolzig had been playing one of his strongest games of the season. Then Demitra beat him, Doug Weight scored on a shot Kolzig usually would have had and Keith Tkachuk scored a similar goal.
But the bottom line is scoring, or the lack of it. No goalie can run up winning streaks when his team is averaging less than a goal a game over a period of time.
To fully appreciate Bondra's power-play goal midway through the second period, one must consider that the Blues' Johnson has been having a great season and was having a very good game.
Jeff Halpern won the draw for the Caps and pulled the puck back to Gonchar on the left point. The defenseman whipped the puck across to Bondra, about five feet outside the top of the right circle. The wing paused for a second to settle the puck down and whacked it, straight into the far side over Johnson's right shoulder. The goalie jerked his head around to the right after the puck passed and never did raise his hand.
The goal was Bondra's 10th of the season, his seventh on the power play. As a comparison, last season it took Bondra until the 28th game of the season on Dec. 9 to get his 10th goal, and he went on to score 45 with a huge second half.
The lead lasted only four minutes when the Caps' penalty-killing, which up to that point had been having a sensational night, failed. However, three of hockey's biggest names contributed to that failure.
The second-period power play started when defenseman Chris Pronger passed down low to left wing Keith Tkachuk, who immediately whipped a pass out to MacInnis at the right point. The defenseman, who is reputed to own the fastest and hardest shot in the league, ripped a slap shot in on Kolzig, and the goalie reacted quickly with his stick. But he get all of it, and the puck glanced off the blade and into the net.
With those two exceptions, there were few really good scoring chances in the first two periods by either team. Bondra ripped a shot through a crowd seven minutes into the game that clanged off the left post, but nothing else posed much of a problem for either goalie. Kolzig was exceptionally sharp, considering he had played an overtime game the previous night and then flown halfway across the continent.
Gonchar, however, did not last the entire game. While killing a penalty late in the second period, he went down with what is being described as a slight groin strain. A club official said he was day-to-day.


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