- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 20, 2003

Olie Kolzig had one of the best seats in the house during the Washington Capitals’ recent two-game road swing. He sat at the end of the bench, giving a rookie a chance to show what he could do while the veteran got some physical and mental rest.

Last night it paid off. Kolzig faced one of the highest-scoring teams in the league and held Toronto to two goals as the Caps battled from behind for a 2-2 overtime draw with the Maple Leafs at MCI Center. Washington picks up a point for going to the extra period and now stands 10-19-3-1 for the season with 24 points.

It was a classic case perhaps of the lopsided favorite underestimating its opponent, not taking the Caps seriously enough and paying for it in the end.

Kolzig entered having lost four of his last five, some of them embarrassingly. But he appeared to be back to his old style against the team that has given him fits more than any other in the league.

“Olie — I’ve said it before — anytime we have a chance in a game, he plays outstanding,” said center Dainius Zubrus, who scored the game-tying goal in the second period. “He did it again tonight. It’s good to see him bounce back and feel a little bit better.”

Kolzig stopped 32 of the 34 shots he faced, some of the saves outstanding, and seemed to get stronger. For that matter, his support also seemed to get stronger.

“The attitude is definitely more positive in the room, and you could probably see it on the ice,” Zubrus said. “It feels like the team has a little more energy right off the start, and that was our issue — not being able to play for a full 60 minutes. It seems now that the guys are feeling good and we can play 60 minutes.”

The Caps are now 2-1-2 since Glen Hanlon took over as coach Dec.10.

“I’m obviously happy with Olie,” Hanlon said, “I always am. Olie’s our guy and our franchise.”

The Leafs had won six in a row on the road before last night, surrendering a total of seven goals. Washington now has a record of 1-7-3 in its last 11 games against Toronto.

The game was never out of reach despite the all that separated the clubs — the Leafs on top in the East, the Caps last in the East and the rest of the NHL as well. There were stretches where the visitors dominated as might be expected, but the Leafs were never able to take advantage.

Toronto’s initial goal came 12 minutes into the first and was preventable. Center Nik Antropov shot and the rebound came to left wing Alexei Ponikarovsky, who slammed a shot into Kolzig. The goalie made the stop but couldn’t find the puck and reached behind to see where it was. Unfortunately, he had no help. As he reached, so did Ponikarovsky. The wing spotted it first and rapped it in.

Kip Miller tied the game six minutes into the second on a power play. Robert Lang, who played more than four minutes of the second period up to the point where the goal was scored, shot from the right, and the puck came out to the left. From there, Miller whacked it in off a Toronto defender, his fourth of the season.

Mats Sundin wasted no time putting Toronto back in front. In 14 seconds he came down the ice, turned Jason Doig around and drilled a forehand past Kolzig’s left pad.

The Caps answered five minutes later. Miller had taken a shot that Trevor Kidd stopped, but he did not cover the rebound. It came to Zubrus, who paused for a split second while another Cap cleared the lane, then lifted a backhander over the goalie. It was Zubrus’ 11th of the season coming in his 33rd game; he didn’t score his 11th last season until game 75.

Kidd, not tested that often, played a strong game for a goalie who was in only his third contest of the season at any level. He opened the season on injured reserve after shoulder surgery, played one game in the minors and then beat the New York Rangers on Nov.30 in his only NHL appearance before last night.

Meanwhile, Jaromir Jagr had the large cast removed from his left hand yesterday but was still listed as day-to-day by Caps officials. He was hurt midway through the first period of the Atlanta game on Tuesday, tearing a nail off his thumb and opening a large gash, and missed the game against Florida the following night.

There was no new information on defenseman Brendan Witt, sidelined with a shoulder injury. A team source said it was hoped he would be ready to practice today with an outside chance he could play in tomorrow’s game against the New York Islanders.

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