- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 23, 2003

The Carolina Hurricanes, losers of eight in a row, threw a huge scare into Washington last night, and for a while it didn't seem that the Capitals had the will or the ability to stop them.

In the end, Jeff Halpern scored shorthanded into an empty net with a second left, giving the Caps a 5-3 victory, Olie Kolzig's 200th as a Washington netminder. The win broke Washington's four-game winless streak (0-2-1-1).

"We made it interesting at the end," said Kolzig, now 18-13-4 for the season and 200-173-52 as a Cap, making him by far the winningest Washington goalie in history.

"They're a desperate team, and we've got to be a little bit mentally tougher and not allow them to just come in and buzzing around," Kolzig said. "It was fortunate we had a three-goal lead this time and not a two-goal lead."

Kolzig survived a scare himself 9:14 into the second when a slap shot by Carolina's Kevyn Adams rose as it approached and struck the goalie on the left collarbone, the exact spot where he was struck less than a week ago by another slap shot. He was down for several minutes before getting to his feet and continuing.

The goalie appeared to be happier to get his team's winless streak behind him than worry about the milestone victory. Only 50 other goalies in NHL history have reached 200 wins.

"The milestone was going to come," he said. "If I had been stuck at 199 for the rest of my career, I'd probably be bought out next year." As it was, it was his fourth try at 200 and came nearly eight years to the day (Jan.27, 1995) after his first NHL victory, 5-2 over the New York Islanders.

Kolzig has been in the Caps' organization for his entire pro career, starting from the day he was drafted 19th in the first round. He bounced around, team-to-team, league-to-league, winning championships in the East Coast Hockey League with Hampton Roads and the American Hockey League with Portland, Maine. He also took the Rochester (N.Y.) Americans to the Calder Cup finals in 1993, when Washington loaned him to the Buffalo organization.

He acknowledges he had opportunities to make an impression with the Caps earlier in his career, but at the time didn't view those chances as career opportunities. He thought he was just finishing a game for somebody, or giving a starter a night off.

When opportunity finally knocked with a very heavy hand, Kolzig admits he didn't even recognize it that night. It was Oct.1, 1997, the season opener in Toronto. Starter Bill Ranford was hurt 2:29 into the first but finished the period. Kolzig was in net to start the second, and his signature has been on Washington goaltending ever since.

"At the time, I didn't think it was an opportunity, I thought I was just filling in for the rest of the game and Billy would be back the next night," Kolzig said recently. "It took him a little while to come back, and his misfortune was my fortune. I took advantage."

Carolina played like a team that was desperate, which seven consecutive losses will do for a club. It outplayed Washington in the early going, beating the Caps along the boards and to loose pucks.

The Caps scored first off a pretty play. Kip Miller found Jaromir Jagr along the right boards, and the big right wing sent a slap shot toward goal. In net, Arturs Irbe anticipated what was taking place and slid across the crease to stop Jagr. Problem is, he slid too far and the Jagr blast rocketed into the far left corner that Irbe just vacated.

Carolina tied the game with its first power play goal since the last time it played Washington on Jan.10. It came because the Hurricanes were dominating play and the Caps couldn't get the puck out of the zone. Ron Francis, who has scored against Washington in every game this season, banked a power play goal in off Kolzig's rump.

Jagr's second was the only score of the second period. Miller passed back on a give-and-go and Jagr ripped a one-timer into the near side.

Ivan Ciernik scored early in the third followed by Miller's ninth of the season at 7:42 and Kolzig finally had some breathing room. Josef Vasicek narrowed the margin to 4-2 at 14:11 and then to 4-3 at 17:28 but that's as close as the visitors got.

Caps left wing Steve Konowalchuk left the game during the first period with what was described as a groin strain. The team listed him as day-to-day.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide