- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 31, 2002

The Washington Capitals were playing their third game in four nights and their second straight without defensive regulars Sergei Gonchar, Ken Klee and Frantisek Kucera.
But the Caps were also playing their pigeons, the New York Islanders. And for the 22nd straight time, dating back to April 12, 1997, the Caps didn't lose.
This 4-2 triumph was won on Dmitri Khristich's eighth goal of the season with 6:15 remaining. Washington's first game at MCI Center in 18 days after an eight-game road trip extended its hex over New York to 19-0-3.
Danius Zubrus' second goal of the game (his fifth goal and 12th point in the last nine games), an empty-netter with 26 seconds left, sealed the victory in front of 18,672.
The Caps (33-32-10-1) moved over .500 for the first time since Oct. 25 and remained in the Eastern Conference's eighth and final playoff spot. Washington actually is tied with Montreal, which beat Pittsburgh 2-1 in overtime, but would get the nod because it has two more victories. The Canadiens have seven games left to six for the Caps, who went 13-6-2 in February and March.
"We learned a lot on the [5-3] road trip, a lot of games being down 2-0 and coming back," Caps coach Ron Wilson said. "It's not an uncomfortable position. We know if we can keep it close, we've got the right people to get the job done in the third."
But those people aren't usually Khristich and Colin Forbes, who wouldn't even have been on the ice to score the go-ahead goal with 9:15 to go if Khristich hadn't been getting his skate repaired.
"That has been kind of what has been happening for us," Wilson said. "Guys are jumping in at just the right time and making the right things happen."
The winning goal was set up on a pass from Jaromir Jagr that caromed across the slot to Khristich in the left circle and came three minutes after Forbes had given Washington its first lead with his fifth goal on assists from Steve Konowalchuk and Ulf Dahlen. Forbes threw the puck on net from the right corner, and it bounced off diving defenseman Darren Van Impe and then the left pad of goalie Chris Osgood.
The Islanders' Oleg Kvasha scored on a give-and-go from Mark Parrish on just New York's second shot of the period with 4:43 left to make it 3-2, but Washington was able to hold on until Zubrus' clincher.
As has become a bad habit this season, particularly this month, the Caps fell behind quickly. Just 5:42 into the game, Dave Scatchard threw the puck out in front of the left post and Van Impe, streaking into the play, one-timed his third goal past Olie Kolzig's glove for a 1-0 New York lead just 5:42 into the contest.
The Caps have now surrendered the first goal in 10 of their past 12 but are a remarkable 7-4-1 in those games.
Washington outshot New York 10-4 in the first period, but almost all of the Caps' shots came with no traffic in front of Osgood. At 7:13 of the second period, Sylvain Cote was whistled for holding the stick, but the Caps smartly killed the game's first penalty.
Washington also erased New York's next man-advantage, courtesy of a hooking call against Glen Metropolit, with just one shot on Kolzig. And the Islanders didn't even muster a shot after Zubrus was called for a cross-checking Kenny Jonsson at 14:43 of the period.
After Islanders defenseman Evgeny Korolev closed his hand on the puck to finally give the Caps their first power play with 3:04 left in the period, Zubrus took advantage. Peter Bondra and Metropolit kept the puck alive in front for Zubrus, who poked it between Osgood's legs, at 18:25 of the period before being sent flying by New York captain Michael Peca.
"That was the turning point," Jagr said. "Sometimes all you need is a goal like that and all the momentum changes"
Notes
Despite playing without Gonchar, out for five games with a concussion, Klee (foot) and Kucera (shoulder), both sidelined for the second straight night, the Caps held the Islanders to just 13 shots, two in the third period. … New York played without two of its top players, defenseman Adrian AuCoin (heel) and forward Shawn Bates (groin). … Bondra has 50 points (32 goals, 18 points) in 52 regular-season games against the Islanders.


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