- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 29, 2003

For Washington Capitals fans, there was one highlight in last night’s 5-3 loss to Montreal.

More than 16 minutes into the first period, with the Canadiens leading by one, defenseman Rick Berry got the puck to right wing Jaromir Jagr. The Czech star did a little tango step getting the puck into the zone before sneaking it to center Robert Lang, who was closing in on the right side.

Lang took the puck in stride and slowed for a second as if to study the landscape. He then shifted his weight to his right and moved a step closer to goalie Mathieu Garon. As Garon committed to block the thrust, Lang shifted his weight back and had half an open net to shoot at for the easy goal.

The goal extended Lang’s league-high point streak to 14 games (11 goals, 11 assists), the longest such streak of his career. Lang has failed to score in only two games this season, Oct.18 against St. Louis and Oct.29 against Atlanta.

The assist stretched Jagr’s point streak to 10 games (four goals and 11 assists) and came on a night when there was doubt whether he would play after injuring a groin Wednesday night.

Otherwise, there wasn’t anything for the Caps or their diehard supporters to feel thankful for. Washington’s record dipped to 6-14-1-1 and 3-5-0-1 at home. It was the fifth time this season Washington has given up five goals in a game.

There will be a matchup of cellar dwellers tonight in Columbus, Ohio, when Washington faces the Blue Jackets. Columbus is last in the Western Conference with 18 points but not last in the league. That distinction belongs to the Caps, who have 14 points.

Former Cap Jan Bulis started the rout last night when he went from the top of the right circle down close enough to inspect Olie Kolzig’s skate laces before putting what appeared to be a stoppable forehand shot through the goalie just 72 seconds into the game.

Lang tied it at 16:36, but it stayed even for only about 90 seconds before Pierre Dagenais, just up from the minors, slammed a shot into the net that might have been stopped in the past by Kolzig’s right arm.

Montreal right wing Michael Ryder used Jeff Halpern as a screen 61 seconds later to extend the lead to 3-1. Defenseman Sheldon Souray made it 4-1 early in the second before rookie Alexander Semin brought the Caps within two when he lifted a rebound over Garon with five minutes to go in the second.

Souray made it a three-goal margin again in the first two minutes of the third before Brendan Witt earned his first of the season.

It was not that Kolzig was tired; he had just taken two games off. Perhaps he was rusty, but a sharper goalie would have kept his team closer.

“We gave up 22 shots tonight, 26 the other night in Buffalo, and they’re not all great chances,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Yes, we have to work on our defensive zone coverage, and we have. We’ve been much better. I don’t know how many great chances they had tonight … but I can count them on both hands. But they got them early. They were opportunistic.

“We need some people to start to become opportunistic. It’s a broken record, [but] it’s a fact. If you’re not going to win faceoffs and block shots and get it done in the defensive end as forwards, then you’d better bring some offense.”


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