- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 28, 2002

With about 40 percent of their offense sidelined with injuries, the Washington Capitals wanted desperately not to look like turkeys last night. The Caps finally did what they set out to do.

Washington played one of its best games of the month and dispatched a Calgary team that may be even more desperate for points of any kind, scoring a 4-2 victory.

It was a mongrel lineup at best. Peter Bondra missed his third straight game with back spasms. Jaromir Jagr was nursing a chronic groin problem that suddenly flared up again several days ago. He played hurt Tuesday in Toronto but was forced to sit last night.

Dainius Zubrus was slashed across his right hand in the Leafs game, the same hand that was broken two years ago. He was unable to properly hold a stick for much of the Toronto game.

Colin Forbes was recalled from Portland and filled a variety of roles while most of the forward lines looked like a patchwork quilt. Only the checking unit Steve Konowalchuk, Jeff Halpern and Mike Grier stayed the same.

It is not known exactly when any of the injured players will return. Coach Bruce Cassidy listed them all as day-to-day last night. Back injuries are notoriously unpredictable, which is to say no one is sure about Bondra. General manager George McPhee said Zubrus had been checked by the medical staff and no serious damage was detected. Jagr will probably skate today, meaning he probably will benefit most from rest.

Calgary also was affected by the injuries. Center Chris Drury, the Flames' leading scorer this season, left the game in the third period Tuesday against Boston with a broken ring finger on his right hand. He did not play last night.

Michael Nylander had a hand in all four Washington goals with one himself and three assists. Sergei Gonchar may have finally started to come to life offensively with a pair of booming, long-distance scores to give him four for the season. And pesky Glen Metropolit scored to round out a good effort.

"They stuck with [the game plan] in the second period, and Gonch got one through," Cassidy said. "He's coming now with his goals. Hopefully, it's a sign of things to come."

The Caps squandered four power-play opportunities in the scoreless first period but took advantage the first chance they had in the second, a bench minor against the Flames. Gonchar uncorked a 55-footer through a screen, and Washington was on the board first at 3:01.

Five minutes later, the defenseman was the trailer on a 3-on-1 break and one-timed a pass from Nylander that easily beat Roman Turek. Glen Metropolit took his time and scored a very pretty goal at 15:55 to round out a productive period for Washington.

"The last two weeks especially, Nylander is starting to find his mark," Cassidy said of the center obtained from Chicago. "We all knew he could score points that's been his resume. Right now he's taken on more of a leadership role, and we could use that with some of our big guns out of the lineup."

Nylander had four points when the Caps obtained him he now has 21. He is on a five-game point streak that has produced five goals and 13 points at a critical time when Washington needs every point it can get.

It was the Caps' second win in three games, with a key Eastern Conference match against Ottawa on tap tomorrow night at MCI Center.

Rob Niedermayer, the usually productive Calgary center, spoiled Olie Kolzig's try for a shutout with a second-period score. It was his first of the season, as was Steve Begin's goal in the third.


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