- The Washington Times - Monday, January 27, 2003

The game threatened to last until halftime of the Super Bowl, but the Washington Capitals' 7-2 victory over the New York Rangers at MCI Center yesterday was probably decided in the first five minutes.
Fifty-one seconds into the match, the Rangers' Bobby Holik cold-cocked the Caps' Jeff Halpern with a left elbow to the jaw. That ignited a brawl that didn't last long but took officials nearly 10 minutes to sort out. When they did, the Caps were short-handed for five minutes for the fighting major Halpern earned.
New York had five shots on goal but got nothing out of it. Goalie Olie Kolzig was sharp, the Caps' defense was responsible and the Rangers were frustrated.
"That changed the whole complexion of the game," Washington coach Bruce Cassidy said. "If they get one or two goals, now you're behind the eight ball, you're upset with the officiating. Our special teams won us the game tonight."
The Caps opened up a five-point lead over Tampa Bay in the Southeast Division and ran their record for Super Bowl matinees to 10-4-1 at home and 10-5-2 overall.
Robert Lang had a pair of goals, and Calle Johansson, Kip Miller (game-winner), Sergei Gonchar, Jaromir Jagr and Peter Bondra added a goal apiece. Gonchar also had three assists, with Jagr and Miller each collecting two. Five of Washington's goals were on the power play, the single-game high for the season.
The Caps maintained that an eighth goal, a short-handed score by Mike Grier that was disallowed because officials said it did not completely cross the goal line, should have counted, according to the replays.
The game was won and lost by special teams. Washington killed all three New York power plays and scored on five of its nine attempts, with two of the goals coming on 5-on-3 advantages. The Rangers ran up 123 penalty minutes, while the Caps took 56.
From a fans' standpoint, it was an exciting afternoon of hockey. There were nine goals and dozens of physical confrontations, some with actual exchanges of punches. Even 6-foot-5, 245-pound Eric Lindros, a well-known abuser of the small but frail, dropped his gloves in the third period after his search for somebody the size of Dino Ciccarelli (5-foot-9, 180) was unsuccessful.
There were some claims the Rangers mixed it up simply to stick up for Lindros, who has a lengthy history of concussions, and nobody argued with that concept. Nor did anybody really argue about the hit that turned an attempt at a hockey game into a brawl.
Lindros took a pass in the neutral zone and turned up ice, hugging the right boards. His head was down, a mistake players are warned about making at an early age.
Washington defenseman Jason Doig lined up the hulking center and hit Lindros cleanly, shoulder to chest. The center crumpled to the ice, and a nasty and at times dirty melee erupted in full force at 3:36 of the third.
"It just happened as the play developed," Doig said. "The guy threw a pass, [Lindros] had his head down and I was at the right spot. That's my game. I'm going to step up and make a hit. The referee didn't call anything."
"He stood up on him," Rangers coach Bryan Trottier said. "[My players] obviously reacted to … you can't hit our big guy. We step it up on Jagr, does their team react that way?"
When the melee ended, New York had four players in the penalty box, the Caps one.
The Rangers were not only guilty of the undisciplined play that cost them the game, they attacked players from behind or charged into confrontations already in progress. Rangers defenseman Boris Mironov was ejected 51 seconds into the game for being the third man in a brawl when he attacked Halpern from behind while the Caps center was brawling with Holik.


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