- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 9, 2003

The Washington Capitals allowed a pair of first-period goals at Pepsi Center in Denver last night and could not make up the lost ground in losing 4-1 to the Colorado Avalanche.

The Caps won only two of the five games on this now-completed road swing but might have done better last night if they had played a complete game. Washington outplayed Colorado in the third period but was no match for the Avalanche in the first two.

Sergei Gonchar scored the Caps’ lone goal when he got everything behind a slapshot from the top of the right circle while Washington had a two-man advantage early in the third period. Jaromir Jagr and Robert Lang assisted.

Washington put some heat on Colorado in the third period in an attempt to make up for recording only 10 shots on goal during the first 40 minutes but could not catch up, thanks to some good goaltending by David Asbischer.

The loss dropped Washington to 8-18-1-1 on the season, and just 5-12-1 on the road.

Perhaps the most important thing to happen to the Caps last night was an injury to Brendan Witt, one of only two experienced defensemen on the team. He left the game late in the first period and did not return. A club spokesman said Witt had an “upper body injury,” the team’s way of acknowledging something happened but refusing to pinpoint the exact location.

Colorado scored two goals in less than six minutes of the first, catching the Caps a bit confused and unprepared for the highly disciplined Avalanche attack.

Teemu Selanne opened the scoring at 5:44 when he redirected a Rob Blake drive past Olie Kolzig. Gonchar seemingly had the Colorado forward tied up but he was able to get his stick free. It was Selanne’s ninth.

Blake got his sixth at 11:13, a preventable goal. One of the league’s better two-way defensemen, he was left unguarded on the left side and he ripped a shot into the open side of the cage.

Former Cap Andrei Nikolishin scored late in the third for a 3-1 lead and the Avalanche added an empty netter for the final score.

Notes — Defenseman John Gruden, out since Nov.10 with a groin problem, was placed on injured reserve yesterday to make room for left wing Bates Battaglia, who had been out with a bruised foot. Battaglia came to the Caps in the deal that sent team captain Steve Konowalchuk to Denver. Washington maintains that the key to that deal was unsigned Colorado prospect Josef Johansson, a forward playing junior hockey in Canada. … Center Boyd Gordon and left wing Alexander Semin were the healthy scratches last night for the Caps. Washington has until tomorrow to decide whether to allow Semin to return to Russia to play for that country’s national junior team in the world junior championships right around Christmas time. … The Avalanche were without a pair of formidable forwards, Peter Forsberg and Paul Kariya, who were both injured. … The game had a brief delay when the glass behind the Washington goal was broken by Colorado’s Travis Brigley at 1:33 of the first period. … The Caps are home against Boston Thursday night.

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