- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 22, 2002

UNIONDALE, N.Y. The resurgent Washington Capitals crept within a game of .500 last night, saving their best for last.
Michael Nylander missed a penalty shot but scored twice in normal fashion as the Caps battled from behind for a 3-1 victory over the New York Islanders and the goalie that franchise is banking its future on, Rick Dipietro.
Nylander, obtained from the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct.31, scored at 1:40 of the third to tie the game and put the winner past Dipietro at 17:50. He also missed a penalty shot midway through the third. Kip Miller, a former Islander, was credited with an empty netter at the end to back some outstanding goaltending by Olie Kolzig.
The Caps are now 15-16-3 and on a modest three-game (2-0-1) unbeaten streak. The last time Washington was at .500 was Nov.16.
"For the most part we did an unbelievable job," Kolzig said. "I just hope we can put this in the memory bank so we can remember how we played because this is what is going to make us successful."
There was an outstanding defensive performance in front of the goaltender, who seldom had to face second-chance shots. There was a solid team effort for nearly the entire game, which hasn't happened every night this season.
Nylander now has 10 goals and 34 points, all but two of the points for the Caps. He moved to center on the first line long ago and more and more is scoring huge goals for Washington as defenses concentrate on other offensive stars, leaving him alone.
"He made a good save on the penalty shot, but I should have been more patient," Nylander said. "I looked too much at the ice. I didn't look at his pads that much. When I got a second chance, of course I had an answer because I scored a goal. But that time I was trying to look at what he was doing. I was lucky. He tried to go over there [to the left], and I cut back."
Dipietro dived out to attempt a poke check at the last instant as Nylander bore down with the winner. When the goalie made his move, it exposed the lower right corner of the cage, and that's where Nylander put it.
Nylander was awarded a penalty shot 11:33 into the third period when Dipietro, trapped behind his own net, threw his stick at the Caps center, who had the puck and was trying to feed Jaromir Jagr in front. Referee Paul Devorski raised his arm immediately, signaling the penalty.
Nylander came straight down the middle on Dipietro and moved slightly to the left, but the goalie didn't budge. The center tried a wrist shot over Dipietro's right pad, but the goalie blocked it.
The first goal of the game came 15 minutes into the second with the Islanders on a power play. Kolzig made a tough stop on Mark Parrish, but the rebound was left about six feet in front of the goalie, nearly invisible in a sea of legs. Mattias Weinhandl spotted it, streaked in and poked it back behind Kolzig on just the eighth New York shot of the game.
The game had turned from peaceful in the first to rough and physical in the second. Yet the officials let the players play, calling infractions only when things threatened to get out of control.
Washington outplayed the Islanders by a wide margin in the first period, but neither team was able to score. The game was more than eight minutes old before New York got a shot through to Kolzig; he only had to face one more before the period ended.
Washington had opportunities but couldn't convert. The Caps had 13 shots on Dipietro but came up empty, including on a pair of power plays. The best chance the Caps had in the first 20 minutes came less than two minutes into the game, when center Robert Lang got in alone but couldn't get the puck under control and never got a shot off.
Dipietro was recalled from Bridgeport, Conn., in the American Hockey League on Dec.18 to shake the team out of its mediocre play. He had a record of 10-7-6 and a 2.18 goals-against average with Bridgeport, and at one point this season ran off an unbeaten string of 14, going 9-0-5. He was the first pick overall in the 2000 draft.
The 21-year-old from Winthrop, Mass., had an NHL record of 4-15-1 with a 3.41 GAA last season when New York tried to rush him into the league. In his first outing this season, he spotted Minnesota a 2-0 lead, then won 4-2.

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