It probably would have been easy for the Washington Capitals to relax last night considering the way they have handled the New York Islanders recently.
Instead Washington played a sound game against a team fighting for a playoff spot and defeated the Islanders 3-0 to run its record to 23-1-3 against New York in the last 27 meetings. The Caps are 12-0-2 against the Islanders at MCI Center.
Olie Kolzig got the shutout, his second of the season and 29th of his career, and received scoring support from linemates Steve Konowalchuk, Peter Bondra and Jeff Halpern. The victory gave the Caps a six-point lead over Tampa Bay in the Southeast Division race.
“Weve been getting the breaks against that team,” Konowalchuk said. “They played hard, and for our line, it was nice to chip one in. You cant always rely on your top line for your goals. Im glad we could help today.”
While no mention can be found in the record books, the Caps might have established a team record for fewest shots on the power play in a game. Washington had four chances with the extra man in the first period and recorded nary a shot on the surprise starter, Garth Snow. Actually, five penalties were called against the Islanders, but Washington scored on a delayed call.
Washington didnt muster a shot on the well-traveled Snow with the extra man until the second period. That came with Alexei Yashin in the box for tripping Sergei Gonchar at 5:04. The shot came at 6:41, but Snow kicked Robert Langs effort aside. Washington used up 9:37 of power-play time before making Snow react for the first time. It was the Caps only power-play shot of the night.
“Weve got to take some blame for that, but they kill penalties real well,” Konowalchuk said. “They pressure real well, theyve got big defensemen and we didnt adjust quick enough. Luckily, we found another way to win.”
Konowalchuk, scoring for the first time since Jan.11, put Washington ahead at 9:43 of the opening period by doing one of the things he does best, muck in front of the net. Jaromir Jagr shot from the right point, and the puck glanced off Konowalchuks elbow and then his leg, bounced off the ice, through Snows legs and into the net.
Jagr was the extra skater on the ice after Kolzig made it to the bench. His assist gave him points in six straight games (five goals, six assists).
Bondras goal, on his 34th birthday, was a pure shooters goal. He came in on a 2-on-1 with Halpern and accepted the pass from his center. From the right circle, he unleashed a wrist shot that zipped into the top right corner before Snow could react. The wing now has 22 goals on the season and three in his last five games.
Bondra assisted on the final score, Halperns drive into an empty net in the final minute with the Islanders pressing with six skaters, trying to get something past Kolzig.
“The toughest shot I faced might have been the first shot of the game when Peca threw a cross-ice pass,” the goalie said. “We did a great job. It was a great commitment by our guys to not allow them to come through the neutral zone with any speed, to create any chances off the rush. My hats off to the boys; the boys played great.”
Kolzig had to twist himself into a knot with a little more than three minutes to play to keep it scoreless when Jason Wiemer drove a shot toward goal from a bad angle. But the puck appeared to have eyes, and Kolzig wisely came out and pounced on it.
Notes - Caps coach Bruce Cassidy made a slight roster change, inserting Ivan Ciernik on the fourth line in place of Alex Henry. The other two scratches were the same as they have been for a while: defensemen Rick Berry and J.F. Fortin.
The Islanders used Kenny Jonsson although the defenseman was laid out early in the first period in the teams last game Tuesday night after cracking his head on the boards. He has a history of concussions. Joel Kwiatkowski got his first point as a Cap in the first period when he got the second assist on Konowalchuks goal. The Caps will play host to Youth Hockey Night tomorrow evening when the Montreal Canadiens are in town.