- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 15, 2003

When Washington defeated the previously unbeaten Lightning in Tampa 12 days ago, the Caps followed that stunning victory with a stinker in Philadelphia.

The Caps continued that trend last night when, following a seven-goal explosion against Carolina on Wednesday, they produced another stinker, this time against Tampa Bay with an embarrassing 5-2 loss at MCI Center. It was a game in which the home team contributed to the defeat in nearly every way possible.

The Lightning’s win is their first in their last 11 regular season games at MCI Center. They came into last night’s game 0-11-0 in those games. Of course that doesn’t count the three games Tampa Bay won at MCI in last season’s playoff series when it won the final four games after dropping the first two.

The loss leaves Washington with a deplorable 4-12-1 record this season and 1-3-0 in its first home stand of any length.

Last night, Jaromir Jagr scored a goal for Washington for the first time since Nov.4, his second goal since Oct.25.

Sergei Gonchar also scored, his first goal since the second game of the season on Oct.11. Unfortunately for Gonchar and the Caps, he fittingly put the puck past his own goalie, Olie Kolzig.

And speaking of Kolzig, he actually took part in a fight, a rare occasion for him.

Hey, somebody had to defend the crease and it might as well be Kolzig. No one else on the Caps seemed to be paying any attention. Before the game was over, Kolzig yielded to Rastislav Stana, the rookie who made his NHL debut, so the starter could get some rest before tonight’s game against Carolina.

From a Washington point of view last night’s game was beyond embarrassing. In fact, it seemed to be a continuation of the playoff disaster from last April when the Lightning sent the Caps into another early golf season.

Last night started badly and got worse.

Just 3:22 into the game, after Vinnie Lacavalier fired a shot at Kolzig that the goalie rejected, Gonchar had the puck in the right corner and looked for somewhere to pass. Martin St. Louis, the little Tampa Bay wing who drove the Caps crazy during the playoffs, gently harassed the defenseman until he finally decided to pass.

And pass he did, straight across the rink, into the paint in the crease, off Kolzig’s right skate and into the cage. Lecavalier got credit as the last Tampa Bay player to touch the puck.

“I had the puck, I was looking at the forward … I tried to find Brendan [Witt] on the other side of the ice. I guess I was too close to the net. I shoot Olie in the skate and score into my own net,” Gonchar said.

“The guys tried to help me, cheer me up, we had a lot of minutes ahead of us. That’s a bad start but we have to fight through those things. It seems like nothing sometimes is going our way. We’re having those nights when we collapse. That’s inexcusable, even if we start so bad we should do better.”

But the Caps didn’t get any better, especially after Lightning left wing Fredrik Modin showed up. Kolzig probably knew that was it. The Swede seems to own Kolzig and the goalie admits it. Last night in the first two periods Modin had two shots on Kolzig — and had two goals for his effort. That gave him eight goals against Kolzig in 23 games — not including playoffs.

And so it went. The Caps managed to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 4-0 disadvantage before Jagr scored at 11:21 of the second, putting a backhand past backup Tampa Bay goalie John Grahame. The Lightning apparently didn’t feel playing the Caps was enough of a reason to get their usual starter, Nikolai Khabibulin, sweaty.

Five minutes later St. Louis deked and tucked another one past Kolzig while Jason Doig got his first of the season as time expired in the second period.

Stana? He stopped all seven shots he faced but by the time he entered the game, all the teams wanted to do was run the clock out.

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