- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 6, 2003

Less than three minutes into the game last night at MCI Center, New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur made a big stop on Michael Nylander. In the second period, Washington's Olie Kolzig made two outstanding stops, first to keep the game scoreless, then to keep it tied.
Two of the best defensive teams in the league battled for bragging rights, and the Devils came away with a 4-1 victory that was probably a little closer than that.
"It seems we just ran into a team that pushed the pace a little bit on us," Caps coach Bruce Cassidy said. "We were still in the game going into the third and we would have liked to see a few other guys step up offensively, but it didn't happen. We lost to a better team tonight."
Washington lost because it could not convert when it had power plays and when it didn't, it seemed to spend too much time in the penalty box. The Caps killed off all six penalties, but that was 12 minutes where they couldn't press offensively.
The size of the crowd had to be a disappointment to management. The Caps were coming off a huge divisional victory, Jaromir Jagr's hat trick pushing him to 500 goals, and last night the team played the No.1 team in the East. The crowd was announced as 14,336 but appeared to be well below that.
The first period seemed to be an exercise for the Caps' penalty killers. Nylander took a pair of penalties in the first three minutes and managed a breakaway in between. Washington also took a delay of game penalty but managed to kill all three.
Nylander made up for his earlier lapses five minutes into the second when he caught Brodeur going the wrong way after making a stop on Jagr. Nylander's 13th of the season was one of the easier tap-ins he'll get.
Five minutes later, the tide started to turn. Turner Stevenson got everything behind a slap shot from the right hash marks that beat Kolzig in the far corner to tie the score.
Seven minutes later, Jagr tried a pass across the rink that went off the heel of his stick and was easily intercepted by the Devils. Brian Rafalski got a shot off, and Kolzig kicked it out. The rebound went straight to John Madden who had an easy tap-in.
"The turnover, yeah, we'd like to have that back," Cassidy said. "But those two guys [Jagr and Kip Miller] have been throwing pucks around for months now and clicking. You got to expect it's not always going to be that way."
Madden nailed the lid shut six minutes into the third when he came down the slot on a broken play with Nylander trying vainly to defend and sliced a backhander up over Kolzig's arm. He earned his second career hat trick scoring into an empty net in the final minute.
"I thought we played good in the second period, when we had the lead and we had chances but we couldn't score," Jagr said. "I make a mistake, and they score on it and since then, two good defensive clubs … when you get down against them, it's very tough to come back. They're just too good."
Wing Ivan Ciernik and defensemen Rick Berry and J.F. Fortin were the healthy scratches. Fortin, who has been sent to Portland twice for conditioning, hasn't played with the Caps this year. His last game was against Buffalo on Dec.30. Berry has been out since Jan.17, nine straight games. …
New Jersey center Sergei Brylin was injured 14 minutes into the first period and did not return. He had an arm injury that was thought to be serious. … Even though center Trent Whitfield played nine games with the Caps this season, he is still the leading scorer in Portland with 17-26-43, along with a team high plus-13. Goalie Maxime Ouellet has finally leveled off. His stats are "down" to 17-9-2, with a goals-against of 2.11 and a saves percentage of .939. He let in three goals during his appearance in the American Hockey League All-Star Game on Monday night. Former Caps in the game had four goals and 10 points; current Washington farmhands had a goal and four points.

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