- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 24, 2002

NEW YORK For the last five minutes of a one-goal game last night, Washington forechecked like few other Capitals teams ever have.

Jaromir Jagr, Robert Lang, Peter Bondra, Steve Konowalchuk, Andreas Salomonsson and Mike Grier were just a few of the forwards who went in and banged and banged to protect the lead. It worked. The excellent defensive play kept the New York Rangers off balance and prevented goalie Mike Richter from getting out of his crease to give the home team the extra attacker.

Goals by Konowalchuk and Jagr backed the excellent goaltending of Olie Kolzig and gave Washington a 2-1 victory over the Rangers, breaking a two-game Caps losing streak. Washington is now 4-2 for the season and 3-2 on its current eight-game road swing with three games to go.

Kolzig turned aside 31 of 32 shots, the sixth straight time Washington has allowed the opposition to get off 30 or more.

"Jagr and Olie are considered two of the best in the game, that doesn't surprise me and they were the difference tonight," said coach Bruce Cassidy. But it was defense by everybody on the ice that won the game in the late stages for Washington.

"I think earlier this season, going back to preseason, we had some leads and we kind of laid back," Cassidy said. "I just said, 'You got to hound the puck, go hard, go hard, just have a smart high guy.' If the shoe's on the other foot and you're down with four or five minutes left and the other guys are on you and you're making mistakes, you panic a little, the crowd gets on you and that can be the difference. Being more aggressive is better than sitting back. It was a conscious decision we made on the bench, and I'm glad the guys had the legs to do it at the end."

One of the big factors in the Caps' victory was penalties. They only took three last night; their previous low for the season was five. They had little trouble killing the three shorthanded situations, and that kept everybody fresh.

Cassidy shuffled players like cards in a deck during the second period, double shifting Jagr and Peter Bondra and constantly moving people around to keep the Rangers off balance. Jagr played with the first and fourth lines; Bondra with the second and a line that appeared to be made up during the breaks between the first and second, Salomonsson on the left with Lang in the middle.

Konowalchuk broke the scoreless tie 8:10 into the second with Jagr getting off a huge feed. The right wing was chasing a loose puck behind the net, two Rangers dutifully following, when he and his entourage caught up with it. Jagr quickly backhanded a pass into the slot, where he figured somebody had to be. Konowalchuk was, charging down the slot and he blasted a one-timer through Richter's legs.

Eight-and-a-half minutes later with the Caps on a power play, Jagr made it 2-0 with a sneaky wrist shot from the right boards through a throng in front of the goalie, his fourth power play score of the season.

Matthew Barnaby, who has bedeviled the Caps while playing for several different teams, closed the gap to 2-1 less than a minute after Jagr's score. He accepted a long pass from Tom Poti and ripped a 45-footer off the crossbar into the net.

The first period was a draw, but not because the Rangers didn't try. Washington was outshot 16-8 and at one point had a 9-1 deficit. The 16 shots were the most for New York in the first period this season, but giving up that many was a habit the Caps have gotten into. It was the fifth time in the season's first six games Washington has given up 15 or more shots in the opening period; the Caps have been outscored just 5-2, a tribute to Kolzig, who has held the opposition to a 2-2 first period deadlock this season despite being outshot 75-47.


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