- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 12, 2002

The Washington Capitals did not put a win on the board last night, but in a lot of other ways they recorded a huge victory maybe the biggest of the season.
Playing without seven regulars, including some of the team's and the NHL's biggest stars, the Caps rallied twice against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference before settling for a 3-3 overtime deadlock against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Peter Bondra, Jaromir Jagr, Brendan Witt, Ulf Dahlen, Joe Sacco, Steve Konowalchuk and Calle Johansson were missing from the lineup, the first two being somewhat of a surprise. The Caps played with eight defensemen and all 10 healthy forwards, apparently the same lineup the club will use tonight against the Panthers in Florida.
"I'm very proud of the effort that's as hard as I've seen a lot of guys play all season," said coach Ron Wilson, who received one of the game's three stars for coming up with the short-handed format, which he said he first learned while playing in Switzerland. "It's kind of a teaser you wonder, should you play like this more often and maybe you'll see us play like this a little more on the road. I am really proud of the way we battled to get back in there."
Because of NHL manpower limitations, the Caps will have to go with the same lineup tonight. If they put a player on seven-day injured reserve to call somebody up, that player would be unavailable for key games next week.
Washington got superlative performances from just about everybody who played last night, with goalie Olie Kolzig perhaps standing a little taller than some others. He was the last line of defense behind formations nobody on the club had played before or even heard of.
It was a variation of the 2-1-2 Wilson uses, but instead of three forwards and two defensemen, he reversed that by using the third defender usually Sergei Gonchar or Ken Klee in place of the high center's position. Wilson likened it to the old rover's position when the NHL dressed six skaters instead of the current five, but the position was more like a short outfielder in softball a player who was deliberately in between.
To keep everybody fresh, Wilson usually rolled the players on the ice. In other words, each defenseman would play a double shift but only one at a time and the same with the two forwards. For instance, Frank Kucera would play one shift with J.F. Fortin and then a second shift with Sylvain Cote. Kucera would then leave, Cote would play a second shift with a fresh partner and then leave and so on.
Klee, Dainius Zubrus and Gonchar scored for the Caps, with Adam Oates assisting on two and Zubrus also earning a helper.
"That Oates is a pretty good player still," Leafs goalie Curtis Joseph said of the 39-year-old first-line center. "I think he forgot to count some birthdays. He can still play."
Said Oates: "That's what makes sports fun. We were a desperate team, we had a lot of guys out, guys came up and played positions they'd never played, played more time than they've ever played, Olie played great for us, we killed five penalties and it was an exciting game against a good team. Put it all together and that's why sports is fun."
But it took a huge effort by everybody to pull it off, especially after a mix-up defensively in the first 30 seconds of the game let Toronto push one across. And after playing well, the Caps still trailed 2-1 entering the second.
The game turned in Washington's favor late in the second. Rookie Todd Rohloff took a minor and veteran Joe Reekie a double minor for high sticking 21 seconds later, putting the Caps down two men for 1:39 with the game tied.
When the three penalties expired, the game was still tied and the Leafs, the second highest-scoring team in the East, had been dealt a major setback.
"It can go either way," Kolzig said of the situation. "A 5-on-3 can give a team a cushion as far as the lead is concerned or it can give the penalty-killers the momentum. We did a heck of a job, especially Oates. I know he takes a lot of pride killing them off."

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