- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 16, 2003

Calle Johansson, who seemingly has been a Washington Capital since Harry Truman lived on Pennsylvania Avenue, shook his head back and forth yesterday, searching for the answer to a question.
"You know, we got a great team here," he finally said, avoiding for a moment the issue. "I've never played on a team this talented."
That being the case, then the question becomes even more important: Why do the weaker sisters of the NHL keep giving the Caps a rough time, making life very difficult when they are not outright embarrassing them?
Friday night at MCI Center, the team the Kings put on the ice would have been an early casualty on "The Gong Show." With well more than 400 man-games lost to injury, the Kings were holding open auditions. And the Caps were the Washington Generals.
Of course, the Caps have been having problems against other teams, too.
Against Boston on March 8, an overtime loss that may have saved coach Robbie Ftorek's job. Against Atlanta on March 6, a tie. Against Tampa Bay on Feb. 17, a team the Caps clubbed two weeks earlier by four goals, a bad loss that turned the Lightning's season around. Three days earlier, a loss in Carolina. Five days before that, a loss in Montreal. And each and every one of those teams were behind the Caps at the time those games were played.
"I can't guess how many there have been," Johansson said. "Why does it happen so many times? Why are we so inconsistent? We should be more determined, have a little more grit, more pride. There's just too much at stake to let a game slip away."
At stake? With Friday night's loss and Tampa Bay's win, the Caps dropped out of first place in the Southeast Division, a spot they had held for 69 days.
"Our weakness is that we don't get up for every game," said goalie Olie Kolzig. "We're Jekyll and Hyde. You never know from game to game, or from period to period, what we're going to do. I don't know why whenever we face weaker opponents … a team like [Friday] night. Maybe we didn't know what to expect.
"Maybe we looked at their lineup and didn't think we needed to be as intense as we are against a team like Philly. Philly scares us a little bit, and maybe it's that fear that gets everybody motivated. Against the Kings, we weren't scared, and we started the game real lackadaisical."
Right wing Mike Grier, who is in his first season as a Cap, sees a pattern.
"We weren't playing all that great, but we had a chance to get out of the first period with a one-goal lead," he said. "They got that late goal, and that gave them a lot of energy, a lot of confidence. Sometimes when you're an underdog, you play well in the first but you're still losing in the second, it takes a lot out of you. It would have been very important for us to keep that lead."
Coach Bruce Cassidy agrees.
"It might have been a different game [if Los Angeles hadn't scored with two seconds left in the first period]," he said. "Their late goal is the one that really bothered me because it was a simple missed exchange between [Jason] Doig and [Joel] Kwiatkowski, stuff we talked about. That one was a gift. We gave them life."
Washington plays host to Colorado at 6:08 p.m. today, and the Avalanche aren't conducting any talent searches. They are No.4 in the tough Western Conference, having rebounded nicely after coach Bob Hartley was fired and replaced by Tony Granato.
Notes
Wings Jaromir Jagr (cracked bone in wrist) and Kip Miller (bruised hand) took part in drills yesterday albeit ever so gingerly and wearing red shirts. Defenseman Brendan Witt (sore ribs) still hasn't been back on the ice since he was crunched against the boards in the Philadelphia game a week ago; he said he'd like to be skating by Tuesday. The target date for all three to return is Thursday in Calgary but that date might be pushed back a little. …
Peter Forsberg, Colorado's leading scorer, took a Detroit player into the boards hard in the second period of yesterday's 5-3 loss to the Red Wings and got the worst of it. He limped to the bench favoring his left leg and did not return.

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