- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 10, 2002

The Washington Capitals bought some time last night, and the Ottawa Senators nearly bought them some more. But what is most important for the Caps is that they are still alive and in a playoff race, faint though their hopes may be.
Washington clubbed Chicago 3-1 last night, stalling the Blackhawks' official entry into the postseason after a five-year absence. Sergei Gonchar, Dainius Zubrus and Steve Konowalchuk scored for the Caps, and Olie Kolzig came within one shot of his seventh shutout of the season.
The Caps moved within four points of the Carolina Hurricanes, the Southeast Division leaders, to stay alive in a late charge toward the top of the division. That's the good news. The not-so-good news is that the Hurricanes have a game in hand and only need one point to move the Caps to the sidelines for good. Washington has two games left, while Carolina has three, starting with the lowly Tampa Bay Lightning in Raleigh tonight.
The bad news is that the Montreal Canadiens won their seventh straight last night, holding off a late Senators rally to win 4-3 and officially eliminate the Caps from contention for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot. The Canadiens had missed the playoffs for three straight seasons.
For the Caps to make the playoffs they have to win their final two games while Carolina loses all three of its games in regulation.
"We did our job tonight. We won," Kolzig said. "We got to hope Tampa does their job and beats Carolina and just go from there. That's the situation we're in not a fun situation to be in, but at least we gave ourselves a chance tonight."
The goalie said again, as he has before, that had the Caps played as well earlier in the season as they are now it would be a different situation.
"I believe we can win our last two games," Jaromir Jagr said, "but it doesn't matter. We will play for the fans and ourselves."
Kolzig was huge for the Caps, keeping the team afloat when it was still a contest and again when the Blackhawks turned on all their jets. He was finally beaten by Steve Thomas on the 27th shot of the game and ended up with 32 saves. It was his 31st win against 29 losses, meaning he cannot end up with a losing record.
Chicago seemed preoccupied with Jagr early in the game, and others took advantage. Gonchar, who missed practice Monday to be with his wife for the birth of their first child, streaked down the slot yelling Zubrus' name, and the center heard him. Zubrus whipped a pass into the slot, and Gonchar had an easy time tipping it into the open left side.
"Jagr put on a show in the first period," Chicago coach Brian Sutter said. "You saw why everybody is talking about how he is playing. Him and Zubrus were real good, and the guy that capitalized on it was Gonchar."
The goal was Gonchar's 25th of the season. He is the first Caps defenseman since Kevin Hatcher (with 34) and Al Iafrate (25) in 1992-93 to reach 25 in a season. He has tied his previous high in points with 57.
Zubrus reached a career high with his 16th goal, the game-winner, when he took a Jagr pass and chipped a shot over Jocelyn Thibault's shoulder.
And in the second period Steve Konowalchuk, who missed four months with shoulder surgery, scored his first of the season for all the insurance Washington would need.
"Our guys aren't about to think this is over, and they competed hard," coach Ron Wilson said. "I am very proud of our team."

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