- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 24, 2002

The Washington Capitals finally got a little help from their friends last night and were able to make a move in the standings. But there are still 10 games left to play, and the team has more ground to make up.
Washington scored three times in less than six minutes late in the third period, enabling it to turn back a determined Blue Jackets team 5-2 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus.
Ulf Dahlen scored twice, breaking a 13-game scoreless spell. Andrei Nikolishin, Jaromir Jagr and J.F. Fortin each scored once, with Fortin's an empty-netter for his first NHL goal.
"We got a little nervous when they tied the game [at 2-2] but we were able to answer back," Dahlen said. "We have to get points out of every game. The last three games we played solid, we played good, we played tough games on the road and we were able to come through and get goals when we needed them."
Washington was able to pick up a spot in the standings for the second time in three days, moving into ninth place in the Eastern Conference, two points behind Montreal. The Canadiens, beaten last night in Nashville, hold the eighth and final playoff spot. The Caps are a point ahead of the New York Rangers and three points ahead of Buffalo.
The Caps are in Pittsburgh tonight against the Penguins, who are in 12th place with 65 points, six behind Washington.
"We believe as a group that we're good enough to make the playoffs," Caps coach Ron Wilson said. "Tonight's a game you have to have."
Washington played without the services of defenseman Sergei Gonchar, out with a concussion. Gonchar did not feel well yesterday when he awoke and felt even worse after attempting to ride a stationary bicycle. The star defenseman is being listed as day-to-day, but he is not expected to play tonight in Pittsburgh.
Gonchar, the top-scoring defenseman (23 goals, 55 points) in the league, was knocked unconscious when he was struck in the head by an elbow thrown by Toronto forward Darcy Tucker on Thursday night. No penalty was called on the play, but Tucker later was suspended for two games by the league.
Gonchar has had concussions in the past, making additional head injuries more dangerous. Last night was the second game Gonchar has missed this season; he was listed as injured in late November, but the team still has not revealed the nature of that injury.
The victory was the third straight for Washington, the fourth time this season the Caps have won three in a row but the first time they have done it on the road. The current eight-game trip for the Caps is the longest of the season, and they are now 3-2 with three games left.
Dahlen scored 6:26 into the game and Nikolishin 56 seconds into the second period. After that, the Blue Jackets appeared to all but surrender until the Caps started playing in a sloppy, overconfident manner. When Geoff Sanderson scored on a power play late in the second, the Jackets' batteries were recharged. Jody Shelley scored seven minutes into the third, and suddenly a real game broke out.
Dahlen's second goal came at 14:07, with the Swedish wing simply outworking those trying to defend him. He finally laced a backhander over Ron Tugnutt's right shoulder for what turned out to be the game-winner.
"Ulfie had a strong game. That's the best I've seen him play in a while," said goalie Olaf Kolzig, who had 27 saves.
Eighteen seconds later Jagr scored his 30th for his 19th point in his last 13 games. Fortin's goal came with 12 seconds left, a great reward for a player who logged extra time filling in for Gonchar.
"Right off the get-go in the first period we had a lot of flow," Kolzig said. "We played great, and it easily could have been 2-0 or 3-0. Then we got into some penalty trouble, we got a little tired, we were running around and as a result they tied it up. That woke us up, and we basically closed the deal."
Notes
Defenseman Sylvain Cote joined Gonchar in the trainer's room with a sore back. Left wing Matt Pettinger (no goals this month) was the lone healthy scratch for Washington. … Patrick Boileau was called up from Portland, Maine, for the third time this season, and this time he got into a game. He will stay around as long as Gonchar is not available.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.



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