- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 23, 2003

The games against the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs were supposed to be tests for Washington, to judge where the Capitals stood against the NHL's better teams.
No grades were issued, but if report cards were handed out, the Caps players would have been embarrassed to show them to their parents.
The Red Wings completed the wipeout of the Caps last night 5-1, and it could have been worse had goalie Olie Kolzig not played as well as he did. Two nights earlier Toronto polished off Washington 6-2.
And neither of those teams was near the top of its respective conference. And, Toronto isn't even close to leading its division, while Detroit moved into a tie for the Central Division lead last night with the win.
And the Caps? It was their third straight loss and put Tampa Bay in perfect position to assume the front-runner's spot in the Southeast Division.
"Our best players were not there tonight," Caps coach Bruce Cassidy said as his team went through a lengthy players-only meeting. "Those are the same guys who talked about us beating some upper-end teams. At some point, I don't care what team you're on, you go as far as your best players take you. Tonight we weren't a factor, and [the best players] are going to have to be or we're going to struggle."
Cassidy zeroed in specifically on his second line for not making an offensive contribution. The line is centered by Michael Nylander with Peter Bondra on one side and Dainius Zubrus on the other.
"That line's got to create some offense at some point," the coach said. "You can't have three skilled guys go out and be non-factors night after night after night. There's a lot of pressure on Lang's line to score."
He was referring to the Robert Lang line, which includes Kip Miller and Jaromir Jagr the only group of forwards scoring right now. As a result, it is very easy for the opposition to use its best players against one unit instead of splitting them up.
Halfway through the opening period, the Wings already had 10 shots and two goals. Kolzig did everything within his means, but he needed more help from his defense to stave off the Detroit onslaught.
As the midway point approached, the Red Wings swarmed and directed a barrage at the goalie. Kolzig went one way, then the other but could not be everywhere and Detroit took advantage. Mathieu Dandenault did the final damage taking a great pass from Sergei Fedorov and ripping it behind the twisting goalie at 9:47.
It was 2-0 just 15 seconds later. Jagr turned the puck over, and Pavel Datsyuk took it from there. He was in alone, deked twice and scored.
Eight minutes into the middle period, another turnover, another Red Wings goal. This time left wing Tomas Holmstrom beat Kolzig with a perfectly placed wrist shot to the short side.
Nearly 14 minutes into the second, Kolzig made one of his best stops of the season. After another turnover, Detroit came down ice on a 3-on-1 break, with defenseman Calle Johansson providing the only help for Kolzig. The Wings passed to Henrik Zetterberg on the weak side, and he shot into a corner where Kolzig shouldn't be, couldn't be. He was, making like Manute Bol. He got a right leg out and stopped the puck.
Washington prevented Curtis Joseph from recording his fifth shutout of the season when Sergei Gonchar used Fedorov as a screen and put a low screamer into the left side at 10:57 of the third. It was the first goal by a defenseman in 10 games. It also was Brendan Witt's eighth assist of the season, a career high.
The most entertainment for Caps fans came at 18:48 of the first when defenseman Rick Berry and Detroit left wing Brendan Shanahan put on a fistic display for more than a minute. Berry did not win; neither did he back down from the bigger man and got a few licks in of his own.
Team rules stipulate that players must be in their dressing room two hours before game time, but several were very late yesterday due to flooding and road closures. … Ken Klee was a medical scratch for the Caps because of back spasms that struck during Friday's practice. Cassidy said he had no idea how long Klee would be out but might be back as soon as Wednesday's game against Buffalo. …
With Klee out, Rick Berry got into a game for the first time since Jan.17. Cassidy moved Joel Kwiatkowski up into Klee's spot, with Sergei Gonchar and Berry skating with Jason Doig. … Forwards Josh Green and Stephen Peat were the healthy scratches.

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