- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Less than 24 hours after majority owner Ted Leonsis strongly criticized the play of his Washington Capitals, the club responded with its best game of the season, crushing the Detroit Red Wings 4-1 at Joe Louis Arena. Even Leonsis would have been pleased.

Olie Kolzig, who had started 16 straight games in goal, got the night off, and backup Rastislav Stana came through with a strong game in his first NHL start. He benefited from two things Kolzig often doesn’t have: adequate offensive and defensive support.

“I think I was having the luck of the beginner,” said Stana, who had 38 saves. “There were some rebounds that I left, but the defense cleared them for me. It would have been nice to get the shutout, but I’m still happy with the win.”

Jaromir Jagr, Peter Bondra and Robert Lang scored within a 4:04 span of the first period, and that was it for goalie Curtis Joseph. He was replaced by Manny Legace, who surrendered a second-period goal to Dainius Zubrus.

The goal for Bondra, the Caps’ all-time leader in goals and points, was just his seventh of the season but his 800th point as a Cap — 458 goals and 342 assists. Hall of Famer Mike Gartner is second with 789 points.

Lang and Jagr both had three-point nights to keep their respective point streaks alive. Lang has a league-high 12-game streak (nine goals and 11 assists for 20 points), while Jagr’s streak has reached eight games (4-9-13).

“When we have good starts like tonight, we win those games,” said Lang, who took over the NHL points lead with 28 on 12 goals and 16 assists. “But a lot of times, we’re coming out of the first period down a couple of goals. And in this league, with the way teams play now, nobody’s going to let you back into the game.”

Washington’s game was strong in every respect. The transition game was exceptional and was executed with a sense of urgency, which should be the case for a team that is just 6-13-1-1 as the second quarter of the season starts. There were blind passes last night that actually went to teammates, which often has not been the case.

Generally speaking, Washington played take-no-prisoners hockey. There was good second effort, a segment of the game that has been missing. There were virtually no rebounds that Stana had to worry about, even though he coughed up several that might have been pounded back through him had his teammates not been sharp and diligent.

The goal by Detroit’s Kris Draper at 6:11 of the third came off a loose puck that Stana, just 23, should have covered up. Draper made good on his second chance, rapping the puck in when it glanced off the inside of Stana’s right leg.

The win was only the Caps’ second in their last 10 games at Joe Louis, leaving them at 2-6-1-1. It also was only the third time in its last 19 games Washington had scored more than two goals.

While last night was Stana’s first NHL start, it was not his first league game. He came in to relieve Kolzig on Nov. 14, playing the entire third period against Tampa Bay and stopping all seven shots he faced in a 5-2 Washington loss. He had been recalled 10 days earlier when Sebastien Charpentier, Kolzig’s normal backup, could not play because of injury.

Stana was taken by the Caps in the seventh round of the 1998 draft, 193rd overall. He arrived in the United States from his native Kosice, Slovakia, with little more than the clothes on his back and no hockey equipment. He was farmed out to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, and Calgary in the Western Hockey League before turning pro and joining Richmond in the East Coast Hockey League in 2000-01.

He made it to the Portland Pirates in the American Hockey League last season (8-11-4, 2.17 goals-against average) and had a record of 3-2-0 with a 1.84 GAA this season before his recall.

Stana has represented Slovakia three times in IIHF World Championships and also in the 2002 Olympics. The highlight of his international experience was helping Slovakia defeat Russia for the 2002 world championship, with Peter Bondra scoring the winning goal.

Notes — The number of man-games the Caps have lost this season has more than tripled from the same date last season. With five players out last night, the season total rose to 63. On the same date a year ago, the Caps had lost 19 man-games. Left wing Bates Battaglia was the latest to be scratched, out with a bruised foot. Also out were John Gruden (groin), Matt Pettinger (concussion), Charpentier (hip) and Michael Nylander (broken leg). … The Caps are in Buffalo tomorrow night.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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