- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 28, 2002

It had been nice getting to .500, the Washington Capitals were saying, but that was just a spot on the road. They want to be on top when it's all over, they said.
The Caps took a step in that direction and improved their record to 17-16-3 with a solid 3-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils at MCI Center, inching ever closer to playoff position.
Goalie Olie Kolzig was huge for Washington, outdueling the Devils' Martin Brodeur. Kolzig made 29 stops en route to his 13th win of the season, the two goals that got past him both coming on power plays. Steve Konowalchuk, Peter Bondra and Jaromir Jagr scored for the Caps.
"We've had some good success against New Jersey over the last four years," said center Jeff Halpern. "Just to be able to measure yourself against one of the top teams in the league is good. For some reason, we come up short against other teams, but we always play the Devils hard. It's a good character boost for our team."
The win gives Washington its longest unbeaten streak (4-0-1) of the season plus a four-game winning streak, also its longest of the campaign. The same teams meet tonight in East Rutherford, N.J.
"There were a lot of perimeter shots, and the defense did a good job blocking guys out so I could see," said Kolzig, who is unbeaten since he returned from a quadriceps injury Dec.16. "As a goalie, that's all you ask to be able to see so you can make that save. In the third period, we got into penalty trouble, and that's where they generated their offense."
"We made a couple mistakes on the penalty-kill, but other than that we were pretty good," Caps coach Bruce Cassidy said "We did things in the third period we should have done better, and two of them resulted in goals and the third in a great scoring chance. Other than that, we weren't bad."
Kolzig had a shutout string of more than two games going as the third period started, and the Devils hadn't scored a power play goal since before Thanksgiving. Both trends soon changed.
New Jersey was peppering Kolzig with power play shots when Jamie Langenbrunner set up in the left circle. Patrik Elias fed him the puck and he shot through a crowd, a shot Kolzig didn't see. It ended the Devils' string of frustration at 14 games and 40 fruitless tries. It also ended Kolzig's shutout string at 126:14.
Twelve minutes later, the Devils made a game of it. On another power play, Brian Rafalski shot, Sergei Brylin deflected it just enough for Kolzig to miss and the Caps' lead was down to one. However, that was as close as Kolzig let the game get, shutting the Devils down the rest of the way including one miracle stop with four minutes left.
Washington was unloading a barrage of shots on Brodeur as the first period was ending, but it didn't end soon enough for the Devils. Halpern passed from below the goal line out to Konowalchuk just inside the left circle, and he one-timed the pass into the far right corner of the net with eight seconds remaining.
It became 2-0 at 16:36 of the second when the Caps caught a break from the officials. Bondra glided into the zone slightly ahead of Kip Miller on a 2-on-1 but got away with it. Miller carried and passed off to Bondra, the wing catching Brodeur in the middle of trying to go side-to-side. Bondra put the puck between the goalie's legs, his fourth score in the last four games and his 15th of the season.
Less than a minute later it was 3-0, when Washington scored on the power play for the first time since Dec.13. Again it was Miller who found the open man, Jagr, with a pass across the top of the crease, and Jagr batted it behind Brodeur with a chip shot.
Washington had gone scoreless in 27 power play attempts before Jagr scored. The Caps have only three power play goals in their last 13 games.
Notes There were tentative plans to activate right wing Stephen Peat (hand injury) off injured reserve today and send him to Portland, Maine, for conditioning, a stint that could last two weeks. Peat hasn't played since Nov.9. Also going to Portland for conditioning was left wing Andreas Salomonsson, who has played just three times since he was recalled from the Pirates on Dec.7.


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