- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 24, 2002

Half a dozen.
A handful, plus one.
That's the number of goals scored by the Washington Capitals all by themselves last night against the Atlanta Thrashers.
And they won, too.
The Caps broke a five-game winless streak (0-4-1) by pushing across three goals within 88 seconds in the middle period and earned a 6-3 victory over spunky Atlanta. It was the first time this season the Caps scored six goals in a game; their previous high was five on opening night.
Michael Nylander and Mike Grier had two goals apiece for Washington, Jaromir Jagr and Dainius Zubrus one each. Olie Kolzig survived some poor defensive play in front of him to earn his seventh win of the season.
"Over the last week, I think we've put a lot more pucks in the net, and we're starting to be a lot more creative in the offensive zone," said Grier, who now has four goals. "Tonight it paid off. We got a few lucky bounces and a few lucky goals things we weren't getting and it's a nice feeling to get some of those."
Nonetheless, Washington got off to one of its patented poor starts, this one perhaps even worse than usual as the Caps fell behind 2-0.
"It's something we're trying to address," Grier said. "It's something we want to do, but it seems we've had brain cramps in the first five to 10 minutes of games. Three-on-0 at the start is unacceptable, obviously, and it's something we need to correct if we're going to have any success this year."
Atlanta's Dany Heatley cut a 4-2 Caps lead in half early in the third and once again put the game up for grabs. But Nylander's second of the game on a power play and Grier's second, into an empty net, with 29 seconds left made the issue academic.
"We finally got some breaks around the net," Caps coach Bruce Cassidy said. "I want to call them ugly goals, but they were second-effort goals, loose pucks around the net we banged home. And it's good to see the power play get some goals (3-for-5), especially there before intermission.
"We were certainly a little bit flat but they were individual mistakes that cost us; we weren't flat as a team. But still you get into that 'Oh my God, not again,'" he continued. "So I'm glad to see we bounced back from that. The second period obviously made the difference."
Truth be known, the Caps appeared to have suffered a defensive meltdown before the sudden outburst at the start of the second. The defensive posture didn't improve significantly after Washington scored three times within 1:28.
On a power play at 5:52, Robert Lang slid a blind pass through the crease and Nylander roofed it, tying the score 2-2.
Less than a minute later, Washington stormed Atlanta goalie Pasi Nurminen. Zubrus got off a strong shot and the goalie got a piece of it, but all he managed to do was slow it a bit. The puck trickled behind him and toward the net before it eventually found its way across the line. It was the season's first goal for Zubrus.
At 7:20, there was another great passing play that resulted in a Washington goal. This time it was Sergei Gonchar who slid the puck through to the open Grier. He had nothing but daylight ahead and didn't miss.
However, the game could not have started worse for the Caps. Less than four minutes in, Kolzig faced a 3-on-0 rush after the two defenders trying to kill the penalty were sucked into the sideboards and out of the play. Shawn McEachern got the goal.
At 13:39, Ilya Kovalchuk appeared on Kolzig's doorstep with no Cap in view. The wing lifted a shot over the goalie's arm to make it 2-0.
Washington got one back at 16:14 when Kip Miller passed across to Jagr in the right circle. The big right wing used his long reach to sweep a shot around a defender and into the net.
Peter Bondra was a medical scratch last night with back spasms, the first game he had missed this season. There was no immediate word on how long Bondra would be out. Healthy scratches were center Glen Metropolit and defenseman Steve Eminger. Eminger, a rookie, has now missed eight of 21 games as a healthy scratch.
The Caps are in Toronto on Tuesday night, then return for their traditional dates to open the holidays, against Calgary on Thanksgiving eve and against Ottawa the night after Thanksgiving. They play a matinee Sunday in Atlanta.
Watching from the press box with more than casual interest was the Thrashers' new goalie, Byron Dafoe, who is expected to suit up next week.

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