- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 16, 2003

SUNRISE, Fla. The Florida Panthers had played three games in four nights, the Washington Capitals four games in six nights. The question was which team would collapse on the ice first.
The answer was Florida. The Panthers were unable to handle Washington's deep and continuous forecheck. It resulted in Florida not getting off a shot on goal for nearly half the game and more importantly it resulted in a Caps goal.
That was the goal that counted as Washington never trailed and earned a 2-1 victory over the stubborn Panthers and stayed six points ahead of Tampa Bay in the Southeast Division. The two teams meet tomorrow night in Tampa.
"You got to credit our forwards for cycling the puck down low," coach Bruce Cassidy said of the Caps' ability to prevent the Panthers from even getting a sniff of the goal for so long. "What happens in that case is, they're so tired they just want to get the puck out [of the zone] and get off. We've been there; at the start of the year teams were doing that to us.
"Eventually it worked for us. … [Dainius] Zubrus, Michael Nylander and [Jaromir] Jagr had a shift where they pinned them down for two minutes, and by the time they got it out, we caught them in a line change and we scored a goal as a result. We're certainly fresher and able to push the puck at them. It takes a lot more work to play defense than to play offense. By the time the third came, they didn't have a lot of jump in them to make a push."
The goal in question was the game-winner at 18:32 of the second period. Jeff Halpern came down the left side and backhanded a shot toward goalie Jani Hurme. The Finn made the save but deflected the puck out into the right wing's side of the ice. That's where Ivan Ciernik, often a healthy scratch this season, was zooming into the play. He one-timed the rebound, and Hurme was helpless.
The victory went to Sebastien Charpentier, subbing for Olie Kolzig. Charpentier didn't have a lot of work Florida had only 17 shots total and none in the second period but he was strong when he had to be.
"Charpy gets better as the game goes along," Cassidy said. "Obviously, in the third period we weren't sure what was going to happen. When you don't face a shot for that long and the guy hasn't played in a month, you almost hope he gets a lot of shots early just to get him into it."
Halpern had the Caps' first goal 3:36 into the game, a chip shot up over Hurme's left shoulder. Viktor Kozlov tied it at 8:27 of the first when his redirection caught Charpentier by surprise. The goalie got a piece of it, but the puck bounced up and over him to tie the score.
Florida thought it had scored the tying goal at 10:57 of the third on a power play, but the officials ruled that Kristian Huselius' shot was a high stick and did not count.
The game was physical from the start, with some of the Panthers seemingly more interested in headhunting than playing. Washington right wing Mike Grier finally took on Brad Ference, who had been looking for a scrap all night. Ference regrets that decision now; Grier is 227 pounds and knows how to defend himself.
Washington also got physical support from 6-foot-6 Alex Henry, who took a run at Peter Worrell. The Florida enforcer had taken several runs at Washington players, especially Brendan Witt.
"Henry took a run at Worrell after he took a run at a few of our guys, and as a coach you like to see that a guy standing up for his teammates," Cassidy said. "It cost us a penalty, but in the back of your mind you can get on with the game."
And that's what happened.

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