- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 14, 2002

The crowd was enthusiastic at MCI Center, apparently in a forgiving mood and cheering the last live hockey action it will see in the building until October.
But the reality of the situation was evident at the end. The Washington Capitals lost to New Jersey 4-3 in overtime to end what ownership, management, players and fans labeled a "very, very disappointing season."
The Caps are out of the playoffs for the third time in six seasons. New Jersey, a Stanley Cup finalist last season, is in the postseason but won't know until today's final games where it finishes or its opponent for the first round.
Rookie goalie Sebastien Charpentier was in goal again and nearly was the hero for the second night in a row. But the Devils were trying hard to avoid playing Boston or Philadelphia in the first round and may have done so.
"All in all, I was pleased with the effort," Caps coach Ron Wilson said. "I think Charpy got fooled on one of the New Jersey goals, but all in all he battled and he's very quick and covers the net pretty well. He did a good job."
Washington once again went with a host of rookies possibly auditioning for spots in the lineup next fall.
"We've gotten younger and faster and more mobile on defense, which has been a concern," Wilson said. "The first half of the season, we couldn't compete in our own end, and that's why we finished with so many goals against. Next year we'll start with younger people back there, and they'll be better because of the experience they picked up this year."
The game didn't look promising at the start when Charpentier stopped only half the four shots he faced in the first seven minutes. Brian Gionta turned a turnover into a 1-0 Devils lead, and John Madden made it 2-0 with a shot through the goalie's legs.
Ulf Dahlen started the Caps' comeback halfway through the first, outwaiting John Vanbiesbrouck before lifting a shot over the goalie's shoulder. Sergei Gonchar bounced a shot past the goalie six minutes into the second for his 26th goal (on his 28th birthday), and Steve Konowalchuk added his second three minutes later.
But in the first minute of the third, Devils left wing Andreas Salomonsson chipped in a rebound Charpentier didn't control, tying the game and eventually sending it into overtime, where Scott Niedermayer put a rebound past Charpentier.
Charpentier's turnaround has been remarkable. Four years ago he had ankle surgery to repair what was thought to be tendon damage, but the pain returned. It became so bad he literally got out of bed only to practice or play.
"He has the highest pain threshold of anybody I've ever seen," said Glen Hanlon, a former NHL goalie who coaches Portland in the American Hockey League. "He could barely walk to the ice [three years ago], yet he played and played very well. His whole life was structured around getting out of bed so he could get to the rink. I'll tell you, they don't come any more competitive than this guy."
The elusive cause for the pain in Charpentier's ankle was finally diagnosed as arthritis. Medication has taken care of the problem, bringing back to life a career once feared lost.
"He plays a good technical game, and his agility allows him to make some good desperation saves," Caps goalie coach Dave Prior said. "He's quick, he's agile and he's very competitive."
Meanwhile, Jeff Halpern, Calle Johansson and Frantisek Kucera remained out injured, giving the Caps 264 man-games lost to injury this season. That was an increase over last year but nothing compared to the days when 500-plus was a common figure.
The healthy scratches included Olie Kolzig, Sylvain Cote, Dmitri Khristich, Joe Sacco, Ivan Ciernik, Benoit Hogue, Todd Rohloff and Chris Corrinet.

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