- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 20, 2002

The Washington Capitals are off today. No skating allowed. The orders are to stay home and reacquaint themselves with their wives and children.
The Caps finished a stretch of six games in nine days last night, home stands interrupted by road games. The schedule is a byproduct of a tightly compressed Olympic year with injuries simply adding to the frustration.
The Vancouver Canucks scored three goals in the second period and breezed to a 5-1 victory at MCI Center, with Chris Simon scoring a late goal for the Caps to spoil Dan Cloutier's shutout. Washington was in the game for 35 minutes, but then the bottom fell out.
"The effort was there we just didn't have any gas in the tank," Caps coach Ron Wilson said. He refused to use injuries and fatigue as excuses, but there was almost no other choice.
"The turning point in the game was the goal they disallowed," Wilson said, referring to a play 7:37 into the first period of a scoreless game. Peter Bondra was pushed into Cloutier in the crease with the puck already there, and in the confusion the puck crossed the goal line. But officials said the whistle had already blown and the play was dead.
"It was a legitimate goal; unfortunately the referee was a little bit out of position, I think," Wilson said. "He didn't make the right decision. We fought valiantly for 35 minutes, and then they scored that power-play goal, and the air went right out. We did what we wanted to do up to that point, [but] they scored a power-play goal, and that was it."
What killed Washington in the end was penalty-killing or lack of it. Vancouver scored on all three of its power-play chances.
The focus of the slow-paced game changed in remarkably quick fashion, just 23 seconds in fact. That's how long it took Vancouver to score twice, and at the clip the Caps have been scoring lately, two was more than enough.
It started at 14:36 of the second when Bondra was penalized for interference simply for bowling over the goaltender like a man on a runaway sled. Defenseman Ed Jovanovski waited for a few seconds for a crowd to gather in front of goalie Olie Kolzig and then hammered a seeing-eye slap shot through a crowd at 15:49 for a 1-0 lead.
Twenty-three seconds later, it was 2-0 after Canucks center Artem Chubarov hooked the net left to right with Washington defenders all but directing traffic for him. He tucked the puck into the right corner off Kolzig's leg at 16:12.
But the offensively challenged visitors were not satisfied at letting it sit at 2-0 before the period expired. Sergei Gonchar elbowed former Cap Trevor Linden over the boards at the benches, and once again officials found fault. And once again Vancouver converted on the power play, with Andrew Cassels glancing a shot off a skate and past Kolzig with 21 seconds left in the middle period.
If there was any life left in the Caps as the third period started, it quickly was sucked out of them. Brendan Morrison scored on a desperation backhander from below the goal line that must have ricocheted off Kolzig's back to find its way into the net just 1:13 after the final period started, and it was 4-0.
Simon's goal, his 12th of the season, came off the kind of effort that probably needs to be displayed more often. He bulled his way down the left boards, fending off a Canuck all the way, and finally let go a shot from the middle of the left circle that screamed into the top right corner. But all that did with less than seven minutes left was make sure the Caps weren't shut out.
The victory went to Cloutier, who before last night had a lifetime record of 1-5-0 with a 3.41 goals-against average when playing Washington. He was not challenged often, but when he was, he was up to the test.
"It's frustrating," Caps wing Dainius Zubrus said. "We keep losing these games. We're getting outshot, and at the same time we're getting outplayed. It's frustrating."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide