- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 2, 2003

There is an old saying that Washington Capitals goalie Olie Kolzig likes to quote. It says never lift your foot if you have it on the head of a snake.

The Caps yesterday had a tired Phoenix team right where they wanted it demoralized, outplayed, outworked, outscored. However, the Coyotes were not dead.

Washington lifted its foot off the head of the snake and the snake bit the Caps 1:20 into overtime, giving the visitors a 2-1 New Year's Day victory on a goal by Tony Amonte. It was a loss that did not seem likely only minutes earlier.

The Caps had been playing a superior game, thoroughly controlling everything tempo, style of play, shots everything but goalie Sean Burke, the Coyotes' heart and soul, who has just returned from a lengthy absence with an ankle problem.

"He's the type of goalie who, if you let him stop a couple in the beginning, he can be unbelievable," said defenseman Calle Johansson, who tied Kelly Miller for the team record for most games played as a Cap, 940. "But at the same time, if you get a hold of him in the first, he can let in a few, too.

"But he's not the reason we lost. We kind of shot ourselves in the foot. We could have beared down and scored on our chances. Burke didn't make unbelievable saves; we hit him in the chest a couple times."

In fact, it took a two-man Phoenix disadvantage for the Caps to score 9:39 into the first. Sergei Gonchar pounded a shot from the blue line, Kip Miller screened and the puck found a spot between Burke's legs.

That goal seemed for a long time to be all the Caps needed. Kolzig faced just six shots over the first two periods, and people were digging through the media guide to see what the fewest number of shots allowed by Washington in a game (11).

But seven minutes into the third period, with the Caps still up 1-0, Phoenix's Ladislav Nagy took advantage of a break when defenseman Ken Klee tripped himself while turning, opening up a lane straight to Kolzig. The goalie went in several different directions but so did Nagy, finally going from forehand to backhand and slipping the puck under Kolzig's glove.

The game was 47 minutes old, and that was only the ninth shot Kolzig had faced, which may have been the problem. Kolzig likes plenty of work, and yesterday he didn't get it.

The winner also came from the left side and was not one Kolzig would have wanted to talk about. Disappointing free agent Amonte (11 goals) got off a decent shot and it appeared the goalie had a clear view, but the puck glanced off his left arm and into the net.

"If we play like that every night, we'll have no problem we'll win our division," said coach Bruce Cassidy. As it is, the Caps now have points in eight straight games (5-0-1-2) and have moved within a single point of Southeast Division front-runner Tampa Bay.

"We could score about four goals and put it out of reach," Cassidy said when asked if his team could play any better than it had in the first two periods, holding a 25-6 shooting edge, allowing no goals and not taking a penalty. "We had some opportunities that we missed, and we've got goal-scorers in the room I would have like to see get a few tonight and put the game away. I don't think Phoenix had a whole lot to offer in the first two periods; they seemed content to keep it close and wait for their opportunities.

"Sure enough, it worked for them."

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