- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 9, 2002

RALEIGH, N.C. The Washington Capitals settled for a tie last night in a game they should have won. They didn't because the Carolina Hurricanes wanted the victory as badly as the Caps.

In a game with plenty of turns and one of the oddest overtime periods ever, the Hurricanes rallied to overcome a third-period deficit and earn a 2-2 deadlock.

In the playoff picture, the Caps gained a point, but so did the team they are pursuing, Carolina. Washington remains 10 points behind the Hurricanes in the struggle for the Southeast Division title and the automatic top-three seed that goes with it. Carolina has 15 games left, the Caps 17.

But the Caps are now within two points of Montreal, which owns the eighth and last seed in the East, and seven points behind the New York Islanders, who are in sixth place.

Asked if the Caps can catch the Hurricanes, coach Ron Wilson replied, "It's probably pretty hard. "We're focusing first on trying to make the playoffs, and if we can put together a streak like [Carolina] just had, we can catch them."

The Hurricanes are on an odd campaign. The club is 12-11-8-2 at home and 16-11-4-3 on the road and has just returned from a make-or-break eight-game road swing with a 5-3-0 record; they have won one of their last 11 at home.

There were some huge swings in the flow of the game. The Caps outshot Carolina 23-9 for the first 31 minutes, then were outshot 17-5 over the last 29 of regulation. Both Olie Kolzig for Washington and Arturs Irbe made some huge stops.

Irbe was vulnerable for only 12 seconds it appeared, early in the second period. Jaromir Jagr glanced a shot in off the shaft of the goalie's stick at 1:11, and 12 seconds later Peter Bondra redirected Chris Simon's drive. That was everything Irbe allowed.

Take away Ron Francis and Kolzig would have had a perfect night. The veteran beat him on a play that was under review for a long time 6:39 into the first period. At 4:30 into the third, Francis scored after Kolzig stopped a shot with his left shoulder.

Washington had ample opportunity to win the game in overtime with a continuous power play for the last 3:04 44 seconds of that with a two-man advantage.

First, Glen Wesley went off for slashing Jagr. Then 1:17 later, Irbe took a brutal delay of game penalty, putting Washington on a 5-on-3 for 44 seconds.

To Carolina's credit, it did a tremendous job shutting down the Caps' potent power play, limiting Washington to three shots one on either side of the two-man advantage and one during it. The Hurricanes thereby prevented Washington from gaining any ground.

"We got a point," Wilson said. "Obviously, we were really gunning for two points. It was a well-played game, a lot of intensity, a playoff game."

Said Carolina coach Paul Maurice: "There were a lot of tough, tough battles in the corners at both ends of the rink. I think our guys fed off that. I thought our special teams were critical in the game, a couple of big goals, and they did a great job penalty-killing."

Adam Oates assisted on Jagr's goal, giving him 12 assists in his last 10 games and 15 points over the same span, season highs for the center. J.F. Fortin assisted on Bondra's goal, his first NHL point.

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