- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 24, 2001

TAMPA, Fla. The Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning traded second-period goals, then battled to a 1-1 draw last night before more than 13,000 at the Ice Palace.
The game was no artistic gem for offensive purists, but the defense kept the fans enthralled with plenty of good body checks throughout the evening. It was the first tie for each team this season.
It was the first of three straight Southeast Division games for Washington, a road swing that continues tonight against Florida and Friday night in Atlanta.
"It was heavy going out there, and it was on real bad ice," coach Ron Wilson said. "It's warm in the building, the ice was slow that's why there wasn't much offense. A lot of our offense comes from power plays, and for some reason we didn't get many breaks in terms of that.
"But I thought it was a good defensive game. Their goalie [Nikolai Khabibulin] made some incredible saves in overtime to prevent a loss and in regulation to get a point."
The Caps swarmed in the third period and in overtime with most of the better chances but were unable to crack through against Khabibulin, who sat out most of the last two seasons in a contract dispute.
Washington broke through first, 14:40 into the second period. It was only the second time this season the Caps scored first in a game, the first time Oct. 10 against the Rangers in New York.
Dainius Zubrus did most of the initial work on the scoring play, keeping the puck alive by circling in the Lightning zone while waiting for reinforcements to arrive. He finally threw the puck back to Andrei Nikolishin in the left circle, and he whipped a shot through a small crowd past Khabibulin. It was Nikolishin's third goal of the season.
It took Tampa Bay five minutes to tie the score. On a power play, Vaclav Prospal passed into the slot, where defenseman Brendan Witt knocked the puck down. But before he had a chance to get it out of the crease, Martin St. Louis got his stick on it and chipped it past Craig Billington, who was making his second start of the season.
"It was a great [to get the tie] because our confidence is so tight right now. These points are going to matter down the line," Billington said. "We can't afford to let it go until January or February. We need the points now. We had a real good team effort tonight, and I would tell we were focusing on some little defensive things that make a difference."
If proof was required that hockey may have found a home in Florida or maybe that the populace has become a bit bored fans returned for the second period last night. And they returned despite the end-to-end futility drills for the first 20 minutes, with the goalies required to make less than a save-a-minute combined for the first half of the period.
After the goals, the game started to look like an old-time Atlantic Coast Conference basketball affair featuring the four-corners offense. For the last 11 minutes, there was a combined one shot on goal, that a short-handed blast by Nikolishin. In fact, Tampa Bay had three straight power-play opportunities without forcing Billington to make a stop.
However, it was apparent the lengthy exercises Wilson put the team through in practice Monday had paid off. The Caps were clearing their own end in much swifter fashion while not putting the puck in danger. They also rotated defensemen so one was always in front of the net, ready to clear opponents away from the goalie's crease.
Meanwhile, Calle Johansson missed his third game of the season with an injury that still has not been disclosed by the team under its new policy.
The Caps recalled left wing Matt Pettinger from the minors but are still playing with only three centers now that Brian Sutherby has been returned to his junior team in Saskatchewan. Joe Sacco, a right wing, continues to center the fourth line, while little-used Dmitri Khristich fills Sacco's position on the right.

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