- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 18, 2003

For the first time since Dec.14, the Washington Capitals lost a game in regulation last night, ending their 14-game streak of gaining at least one point in the standings.
Bryan McCabe scored a backbreaking goal six minutes into the third period and Mats Sundin added an empty-netter as the Toronto Maple Leafs dispatched the suddenly struggling Caps 4-1 before a nearly full house at MCI Center.
The Caps' run ended at 8-0-3-3, 22 out of a possible 28 points. Also ending was right wing Jaromir Jagr's three-game points streak (five goals, 12 points).
"That's the way hockey goes," said right wing Mike Grier. "You get on a streak and you're playing really well, and by the end of the streak your game's not as good as it should be."
Toronto played its usual physical game where instigators try to get a needle stuck in and twist it. Shayne Corson, Tie Domi and Darcy Tucker all did their share of upsetting the opposition, and Tucker did a lot more he scored the game's first two goals.
The large crowd booed and hissed the officiating, or lack of it. The Caps managed to kill all five Toronto power plays but failed to score on any of the three they had.
"When you're on a winning streak, toward the end of it your team starts to slide a bit," said coach Bruce Cassidy. "Things you were getting away with, eventually you don't. It was one of those games. They were opportunistic in the first period their goaltender did a good job. With a break here or there, I honestly think it could have gone either way."
It was a litany of small things that affected the Caps. For instance, 16 minutes into the first period Michael Nylander and Peter Bondra closed in on a 2-on-1. However, the two continued to pass the puck back and forth despite both having excellent chances for a quality shot on goal. They skated through the crease, wasting the opportunity.
Late in the second period, with the Caps down only by a goal, Jagr took possession and drew defenders with him to the right boards. From there, he whipped a pass across ice to the charging Sergei Gonchar, trying to set up a backdoor play. The pass was a hair too far in front of the defenseman; he got a shot off, but there was no steam behind it.
It was a case of too much Tucker in the first. The right wing, the same player who cold-cocked Gonchar late last season and cost the defenseman (and the Caps) a better chance at the playoffs, had a multi-goal game for the first time since 2001 and put Washington in deep trouble from the start.
Gonchar contributed to the first Leafs strike less than eight minutes in. He fired a hard-around attempting to clear, but there was no Cap there to get it. Toronto's Travis Green did, passed to Corson and he found Tucker alone on goalie Olie Kolzig's doorstep.
Tucker struck again with just more than a minute left in the opening period. McCabe unloaded a shot from the right point into a throng. In the crowd was Tucker, who extended his stick at the right moment and deflected it past Kolzig.
Dainius Zubrus cut the lead in half nine minutes into the second when he took a pass from Robert Lang and sent a very hard shot high and deep behind goalie Trevor Kidd.
What the Caps had been doing was make Kidd look good, a remarkable achievement. Kidd had a saves percentage of just .870 coming into the game to go along with a goals-against average of 3.88. He joined the Leafs during the offseason after wintering with the Panthers in Florida for the past several years. The change in scenery has done little for his record (3-6-1).
Notes There was a collective sigh of relief 11:26 into the second period after All-Star right wing Jagr was slammed into the open door jam of the Toronto bench. Jagr was ragging the puck up the left boards when it appeared he was deliberately rammed into the doorway by center Nik Antropov. Worse, the door had been closed until the very instant Jagr got to the boards. Jagr collided with the jam, fell to the ice, then slowly got back to his feet.
Zubrus was not so lucky. Early in the third, he was hit with a crushing check by defenseman Wade Belek and lay on the ice for several minutes. He did not return and will go on injured reserve with a concussion. There was no penalty on the play.


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