- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 15, 2003

One team was playing to hold first place in its division. The other was fighting desperately to get back into contention.
The former party, the Washington Capitals, made just enough mistakes to cost it a game last night, losing 3-1 to Los Angeles, a team with most of its stars elsewhere because the Kings have lost 411 man-games to injury this season.
And the loss cost the Caps more than a game. Washington dropped out of first place in the Southeast Division for the first time since Jan.4 when Tampa Bay beat Buffalo 4-2 to go one point up. The Lightning have a chance to extend that lead when they play the Canadiens in Montreal tonight.
The Kings had been nursing a 2-1 lead when Alexander Frolov scored his second of the night 14:40 into the third period, rapping in a feed from Ziggy Palffy. Washington had been playing with desperation, trying to stay in the game, but the Caps didn't appear to be playing together as a team.
In its defense, Washington was without some of its offensive stars and one of its top defensemen, but that disadvantage was more than made up by the 10 players Los Angeles had out last night alone.
"This was Game 72, so there are no excuses," Caps coach Bruce Cassidy said. "As a group we weren't ready to play, but we have guys who have to be better away from the puck defensively, a little more accountable, a little more urgent on the nights when we're not very good offensively or it's not going our way.
"You have to be able to get points out of a game like tonight, and simple mistakes cost us a hockey game."
The Caps have 79 points, only one more than the New York Islanders, who currently hold the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
"We didn't play our best tonight, simple as that," said left wing Steve Konowalchuk, the team captain. "I don't know if it was [having] three days off, but we didn't have the edge we had been playing with, and this time of year you have to have that. They're a desperate club. We knew that coming in, but for some reason we just weren't sharp."
Los Angeles held the Caps scoreless until three minutes were left in the first but tied it up within minutes. That gave the underdogs all the life they needed, knowing they could play with Washington and play better.
The game was tightly played for most of the first period until 17:05, when Sergei Berezin took a pass from Robert Lang in the Los Angeles zone. Playing his first game for the Caps since he was obtained Tuesday in a trade with Chicago, Berezin skated from the left boards to the hash marks and ripped a wrist shot into the top right corner. It was his first shot in a Washington uniform.
The highlight of the game for the Caps through two periods was killing a two-man disadvantage of 1:53 midway through the second period. Los Angeles had six shots while up a pair and one on either side to have an 8-0 shooting advantage during the overlapping power plays. Goalie Olie Kolzig was sharp.
What the Caps couldn't be proud of were the goals they allowed in the final minute of each of the first two periods. Defenseman Mattias Nordstrom unloaded a slap shot from the left point that was tipped by center Sean Avery just before Kolzig was going to glove it at 19:58 of the first, his first goal since being acquired from Detroit at the trading deadline.
The Kings then got a lucky break at 19:54 of the second when a shot by Frolov glanced off Calle Johansson's left skate, changed direction, caught Kolzig by surprise and zipped into the net.
Notes Right wing Jaromir Jagr (cracked bone in wrist), left wing Kip Miller (on injured reserve with a bruised hand) and defenseman Brendan Witt (sore ribs) were medical scratches for the Caps; Rick Berry and Stephen Peat were healthy scratches. …
Defenseman J.F. Fortin, who hadn't played in an NHL game since Dec.30, came off IR (back spasms) and took Witt's place in the lineup. … Michael Nylander played in his 300th consecutive game last night, second on the active longevity list. By coincidence, Doug Jarvis, the former Cap who holds the all-time NHL longevity record of 964 games, was in the building scouting for Minnesota.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide