- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 18, 2003

TAMPA, Fla. - That semi-comfortable six-point lead the Washington Capitals had over Tampa Bay in the Southeast Division is now down to a not-so-comfortable four.
The Caps self-destructed for just a few minutes at the start of the third period last night and the Lightning took advantage for a 3-1 victory. The loss broke a three-game winning streak the Caps enjoyed over Tampa Bay
It amounted to a four-point turnaround, Tampa Bay closing the gap by two while the Caps failed to extend their margin. Washington has 21 games left in the regular season, Tampa Bay 23.
To add injury to insult, the Lightning's final goal came with 1:25 to play when Vaclav Prospal broke in on Olie Kolzig, deked and scored, but kneed Kolzig in the head and knocked out goalie. Kolzig lay motionless on the ice for a few moments and they was helped to the bench. He was replaced by Sebastien Charpentier.
Washington split the four-game tour of the other teams in the Southeast Division, going 2-2. The club had been hoping for three victories at the least so it has to be considered a disappointing trip.
Washington scored the game's initial goal and for a while it seemed it might be the only one of the night. It came with 1:38 left in the second when Jaromir Jagr worked the puck down the right side and slipped a pass to Kip Miller behind the net. Miller waited for a second and fed Robert Lang, motoring through the left circle. Lang hammered a short drive through Nikolai Khabibulin for his 17th of the season.
The Caps then dug themselves a huge hole less than a minute into the third period. Washington took a delay of game penalty for a faceoff violation. Steve Konowalchuk was sent off at 31 seconds. Then, less than a minute later, Peter Bondra was assessed two minutes for boarding when he rammed Pavel Kubina into the boards headfirst, gave Tampa Bay a two-man advantage for 1:10.
It took only 42 seconds to tie the score. Defenseman Dan Boyle unloaded a slap shot from the left point that eluded Kolzig and the team were tied 1-1 at 2:03.
Less than two minutes later Tampa had the lead. Left wing Fredrik Modin, who seems to own a piece of Kolzig, let loose a shot that was very similar to the one Boyle took and it had the same result.
More than anything else, the game was slow and plodding, perhaps because neither team wanted to commit a mistake that would change the momentum. And there was precious little of that. There was almost no flow, neither team taking command for long stretches of time.
One of the biggest stops of the game came with just 2:33 elapsed. Modin came in on a breakaway. The Washington goaltender stoned the Swedish wing but he had help Brendan Witt slashed Modin and took the Caps first non-coincidental penalty of the game.
But the tone that Tampa Bay seemed to want to establish had been set early. With the game just seconds old, Lightning defenseman Brad Lukowich crosschecked Mike Grier and then started pushing him when the Washington right wing didn't respond. Grier finally pushed back, but the way Tampa Bay intended to play was clear.
The Caps didn't get a chance with the extra man until the second period was more than seven minutes old when Kubina of the Czech Republic went after Jagr, also of the Czech Republic. Jagr started to retaliate when Kubina was finally called but it didn't make much of a difference. Washington was pretty inefficient with its two-minute advantage, not forcing goalie Nikolai Khabibulin to do much.
The power play goal scored by Boyle was only the third Washington has surrendered in its last 11 games. It gave up one to St. Louis and another to Atlanta but otherwise has been perfect.

Notes
The Caps did not fly back last night as originally scheduled, for obvious reasons. The team is now scheduled to practice in Tampa this morning and then return. … Jon Gruden, coach of a local NFL team, dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The Lightning sold out the Forum, 19,934, for the Boston game Saturday night, a 5-2 Tampa victory. Must be a weekend town because only about half that figure (it was announced as 13,954) showed up last night. … Coaches rarely change lineups after a victory but last night there was exception. Cassidy reinserted Kolzig, who was rested Saturday night and watched as Sebastien Charpentier backstopped a 2-1 win over Florida. Otherwise, the healthy scratches were the same - left wing Josh Green and defensemen Rick Berry and J.F. Fortin. … Left wing Andre Roy finished serving his three-game suspension for abuse of an official last night.

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