- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 29, 2003

OTTAWA No telling who will dress for the Washington Capitals tonight against Toronto because there obviously is magic in those call-ups and more might be on the horizon.
Trent Whitfield, in the minors since the end of December, had the first two-point game of his NHL career last night, including the game-winner that powered the Caps to a huge 3-2 victory over Ottawa, the Eastern Conference leader.
For the second game in a row, a call-up playing in his first game with Washington scored the winner. On Tuesday in Montreal, defenseman Josef Boumedienne scored 3:08 into overtime to beat the Canadiens.
There is no way to downplay the importance of the victory for the Caps. It gives them at least a split in their six-game cross-Canada trip with a 3-2 record; it moves them within two points of Tampa Bay, the Southeast Division leader; and it moves them four points ahead of Boston, which is chasing Washington for the sixth seed in the East.
It also gives Washington 87 points, two more than last season with four games to play, and gives them 39 points on the road, four more than last season.
Thanks to another excellent goaltending performance from Olie Kolzig, the Caps shut down a team in the third period that had made its living on rallying and crushing opponents when the opposition was tiring in the closing minutes. Ottawa had an advantage of 30 goals over its opponents in the final 20 minutes; the Caps were minus 18 over the same span.
Washington won because its Fourth Line, a phrase that upsets management because it seemingly sends the wrong message via terminology, scored twice and played a critical defensive role when it was needed to defend or spell other lines.
"When you get two goals out of your fourth line, that's real advantageous for us because we haven't had a lot of that this season," said coach Bruce Cassidy. He was right; the last goal from a fourth-line player came from Josh Green on Jan.28.
"Against the best team in the league, you got to find ways to win, and that line got it done for us," Cassidy said. "Let's face it: They were the difference. Another great call-up."
The problem Cassidy has been facing is that he has too many offensive-minded players, seven, and only six slots on the first two lines. Last night Sergei Berezin and Peter Bondra alternated on the left side with Whitfield and Brian Sutherby, and the operation went very smoothly.
Washington never trailed in the early going. The fireworks started early, with Bondra scoring his 27th of the season, a chip shot over Patrick Lalime after just 2:16 off a pretty feed from Dainius Zubrus.
Less than five minutes later, Ottawa tied the score. Right wing Martin Havlat came out of the right corner in the Caps' zone and closed in on Kolzig. As he approached, Havlat lifted a shot that caught the inside of the right post and glanced upstairs.
The Fourth Line came into its own in the second period, no matter who the left wing was.
It started three minutes in when a loose puck trickled down into the Senators' zone with Sutherby in pursuit. He caught it as it crossed the goal line and centered blindly into the slot, where he hoped a teammate would be. Indeed, Berezin, left wing of the moment on that line, was there and one-timed a shot into the right side for a 2-1 Caps lead with Sutherby and Whitfield assisting.
It got better. Thirteen minutes later, with Bondra taking his turn on the Fourth Line, the left wing faked a shot as he passed over the dot on the left circle. Bondra held for a few seconds and passed into the slot, where Whitfield was coming into view. Whitfield reached out, tipped the puck past Lalime and Washington was up by a pair.
It was almost more. In the opening seconds of the last minute of the second period, the Caps broke in on a 3-on-1, moved the puck around and Bondra took the shot. It hit a post and ricocheted back out into play.
Most of the Caps were caught deep. It came down to a race between Havlat and Sergei Gonchar. Havlet won, came in on Kolzig and whipped a shot through his legs.

Note Caps general manager George McPhee said an MRI on injured defenseman Ken Klee's right foot yesterday did not reveal any break. McPhee indicated that Klee, who was hurt Sunday night in Vancouver, should be ready to go in three games next week.

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