- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 5, 2003

NEW YORK The Washington Capitals gave up a power-play goal with less than four minutes left in regulation last night, allowing the New York Rangers to forge a 2-2 overtime tie at Madison Square Garden.
Washington finished the first half of the season with a record of 18-16-5-2 and 43 points, giving it sole possession of first place in the Southeast Division. The Caps spent a good deal of the first 41 games three games below .500. The tie also enabled the Caps to gain at least one point in each of their last 10 games, going 5-0-3-2, good for 15 points.
Jaromir Jagr, the Caps' $11million right wing, injured his left ankle late in the second period when his skate caught a rut in the usually horrible Garden ice, which was worse than usual because a college basketball game was played there just a few hours earlier.
Jagr came down the right side next to the boards and started to curl to his left in order to circle behind the net. New York defenseman Cory Cross was on the wing, but he had nothing to do with the injury. As Jagr started to turn, his right leg continued to go straight but his left was caught at an awkward angle. He righted himself and went to the bench, favoring the left leg.
A team spokesman later said the injury was to Jagr's ankle, not knee, and did not appear to be serious.
"He tried it in the third [one shift]; it didn't work out for him," coach Bruce Cassidy said. "We're fortunate we have five days off, and there's a lot of guys who can use that five days and he's one of them."
Asked if the injury was serious, Cassidy said, "I don't think so." He added, however, that he hadn't spoken to the medical staff.
Jagr's inability to play in the third period left the Caps with both their big guns, Jagr and left wing Peter Bondra, out with injuries.
The Rangers forced the overtime when, with Dainius Zubrus serving a high-sticking penalty, Tom Poti fired from the right point with less than four minutes left and Olie Kolzig made the save. However, he didn't control the rebound and before a Cap could clear the puck, Matthew Barnaby got to it and backhanded a shot into the open side. It was the Caps' fourth overtime game in their last five outings. They're 1-0-1-2.
Washington defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who has been playing much better defense this season, could be blamed for the game's first goal. Gonchar backed off Barnaby, who had the puck, and allowed the wing to feed Eric Lindros. That gave the big wing an open shot, and he put the puck between Kolzig and the short post 7:28 into the first.
The Caps tied it at just about the same time in the second period. Jeff Halpern brought the puck down the left side and sent a backhand pass into the slot, where he thought a teammate would be. One was there, in the person of Mike Grier, who reached out with the tip of his stick and redirected the pass past the diving Mike Dunham.
With two minutes to go in the second period, Robert Lang put Washington ahead for the first time. Gonchar unloaded a heavy shot from the right point that Dunham saved but lost track of. He turned to his left, but the puck was on the other side and Lang lifted it into the back of the cage.
"We had a pretty good second period and I thought we were going along well in the third, then we started getting these phantom penalties again that are starting to get all too familiar," Cassidy said. "I just can't understand how they can happen at one end and not the other. It's frustrating because I thought we played well enough to win."
The Caps don't play again until Friday, when they are in Carolina for an important Southeast Division game.
The Rangers had been on a similar break before last night, but it was badly needed by New York. The Rangers had 10 players in various stages of recovery from a variety of ailments going into the break but got only one back, center Mark Messier. In fact, they lost center Petr Nedved during the break when his hip pointer failed to respond to treatment. Also, New York had been on a run of 3-8-1-1 before it got most of a week off.

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