- The Washington Times - Monday, March 24, 2003

There are some cardinal rules in hockey. Among them is that the shorthanded team never should get caught outmanned in front of its net while killing a penalty.
The Washington Capitals violated that rule repeatedly last night, and as a result the Canucks rolled to a 6-0 victory at BC Place in Vancouver.
Not only did the undisciplined Caps fail to pay attention to age-old guidelines, they failed to take note of some recent data. For instance, the Canucks score a ton because two members of their first line lead the league in goal-scoring.
Todd Bertuzzi scored twice to give him 45 for the season, Markus Naslund scored his 44th and Daniel Sedin, Brent Sopel and Matt Cooke added one apiece as the Canucks took advantage of Washington almost every time a Cap made his way to the penalty box, which was often. Five of the scores came via the power play as the overworked Washington penalty-killers appeared helpless to prevent damage.
As a result, the Caps are 1-2 on this critical six-game Canada tour and trail Southeast Division front-runner Tampa Bay by three points. And the Lightning have a chance to boost that lead to five points tonight when they play the Sharks in San Jose.
In fact, Washington may be forced to change its focus if the current trend continues, concentrating instead on survival. It is not impossible for the Caps to miss postseason, but that is unlikely. The ideal spot for them would be the sixth seed if indeed they can't capture their own division. That way they would face Tampa Bay, with the first two games in Florida.
But Washington is only three points ahead of seventh place Boston and the Bruins, who are 1-1 since dumping coach Robbie Ftorek. If the Caps finish seventh, they face New Jersey; if they finish eighth, they face Ottawa. The option of facing the Lightning over either of the other two is far superior for a team wishing to advance.
Three of the goals last night will be charged against Olie Kolzig's record although it would be hard to fault him for any of them. Sebastien Charpentier played the third period but got no more support than the veteran.
And the Caps on offense? They had a little more than a dozen shots on rookie Alexander Auld, a recent call-up from the minors. It was his first NHL shutout.
Notes There was a smattering of boos at the start of the singing of the Star Spangled Banner, but it was quickly drowned out by loud cheering from the sellout crowd of 18,514. … Daniel Cloutier has been Vancouver's top goalie all season, as 31 victories would attest, but he has been sidelined with a knee injury that shows little sign of improving. For the Canucks to go far in postseason, they need Cloutier in the lineup. … Defenseman Ken Klee left the game early in the third period after taking a slapshot on his right ankle and hobbled to the bench. He did not return. … Last night was the sixth game right wing Jaromir Jagr has missed with a cracked bone in a wrist, thanks to Boston's Joe Thornton on March 8. But team sources indicate Jagr will return to the lineup tomorrow night against the Canadiens in Montreal. What will be most interesting to see will be what the coaching staff does with the makeup of the forward lines. Some long-sought chemistry finally has started developing that might be tough to break up. For what it's worth, the Caps are 3-3 without their leading scorer. … Left wing Steve Konowalchuk returned to action last night after missing one game with a laceration on an ankle. He took his old spot on the checking line, bumping Kip Miller up to the second line. Ivan Ciernik dropped to the fourth line. … J.F. Fortin was taken out of the lineup last night as Joel Kwiatkowski got back on defense.

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