- The Washington Times - Friday, October 18, 2002

RALEIGH, N.C. If last night was a preview of what to expect from Washington-Carolina clashes this season, hockey fans are in for a treat.

For the third time in three games, the Caps won by a goal, this time defeating the goal-starved Hurricanes 2-1 before a very small crowd at RBC Center. The Caps are off to a 3-0 start, the first time since 1997-98 they have started that well.

The home fans left the rink with a bitter taste in their mouths. The officials disallowed two apparent Carolina goals, saying whistles had already blown in both cases. That didn't help the frame of mind of the fans, who watched their team sink to 1-3-0-1.

It was a brilliant performance at both ends of the rink, by the Caps' Olie Kolzig and Carolina's Kevin Weekes. And they were backed by some exciting play by their teammates.

Peter Bondra and Jaromir Jagr scored for the Caps, pulling Washington back for the third time. Defenseman Calle Johansson made an outstanding play on Bondra's score for his 400th career assist. The senior member of the team also has 116 goals and 516 points.

"Defensively we're getting better although the shots [Carolina 38-27] don't indicate that," said coach Bruce Cassidy, undefeated in his brief NHL career.

"If you're going to look at the Caps and people always say, 'Well they got all that talent on paper' that's what talent does for you," Cassidy said when describing Johansson's setup and Jagr's outstanding goal. "They make plays like that, make people shake their heads. They have the ability to go out and do that every night. We have guys sprinkled through our lineup who can go out and do that. I'd just like to see the rest of the crew generate a little more offense, but that will come."

There was no scoring in the first period, which was quite remarkable. There were a total of 34 shots, many of them requiring superb efforts by the goaltenders to keep the contest scoreless.

Washington was outshot 21-13, and Kolzig had his hands full from the start. Carolina had three power plays in the first 20 minutes and recorded 12 of its 21 shots with the man advantage. The 21 shots were the most the Caps have given up in more than a year; the most they surrendered last season was 20 in the first period at Philadelphia on Oct. 20.

"Olie's been solid every night," Cassidy said. "He tends to thrive on more shots, flurries. Maybe we got a few breaks from early whistles, I can't tell because there's so many people jamming in front of the net."

Cassidy got no argument from Weekes.

"Olie was outstanding tonight," the Hurricanes' goalie said after losing his second straight 2-1 game. "It was a tough loss for us."

Weekes, who collapsed during a preseason practice as a result of a seizure for which doctors have been unable to find a cause, probably had the tougher task in the opening period. He had scoring machines like Bondra and Jagr at his doorstep repeatedly, as well as facing thrusts by Chris Simon. Several times he rejected what appeared to be sure scoring efforts, leaving the Caps shaking their heads.

There was more headshaking in the second period, but for different reasons. For the third time in three games, the Caps had to play catch-up.

Last night it was the venerable Carolina captain, Ron Francis, who burned the Caps with a power play goal, converting on an excellent pass through the crease at 5:09 of the second.

The Hurricanes' lead lasted less than two minutes. After some excellent passing to confuse Carolina, the puck came to Johansson, who drew four defenders to the left side of the rink. That left Bondra open on the right. Johansson found him, and the wing ripped a shot past Weekes.

Washington's go-ahead goal came on a power play at 16:38 of the second. Again, the Caps got off some quick, accurate passes to get Carolina moving until the puck finally came to Jagr in the right circle. He advanced slowly, crouching like a predator, and finally let go with a wrist shot that glanced off the goalie's glove and into the net.


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