- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 6, 2003

PHILADELPHIA — If the Washington Capitals sent their “A” team to Tampa the other night, the “B” team showed up last night in Philadelphia, at least for two periods.

All the good things the Caps displayed in Tuesday’s lopsided 60-minute victory over the Lightning were absent this time for all but 20 minutes as Washington was manhandled physically and in every other way by the Flyers in a 4-2 loss.

This thing with playing the Flyers in Philadelphia has become more habit-forming than nicotine and every bit as dangerous. Washington last won in the building then known as CoreStates Center and now as Wachovia Center on Jan.31, 1998, and has gone 0-12-1 since while being outscored 46-21.

Washington’s record dropped to 3-9-1 with another woeful performance after the Caps opened the season with nine of their first 13 games on the road, a record of 1-7-1 away from MCI Center. Now they get to play four in a row at home, starting with San Jose tomorrow night, and must win virtually all of the games to gain respectability with fans and opponents.

One player who didn’t need an introduction in Philadelphia was goalie Olie Kolzig, who received a lengthy ovation from Flyers fans after one particularly outstanding stop against Simon Gagne 16 minutes into the middle period. Kolzig was trailing 3-0 at the time.

“We’ve had a tendency all season not to shoot the puck,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “We addressed it between the second and third, we addressed it before the game, we’ll address it before Saturday’s game, before Monday’s game and Wednesday night’s game. It’s something we have to keep going after them about, because when we do get pucks to the net, it’s not so much the first shot but the second shot [that matters], and it’s a hard sell to get the guys to believe that. There’s a rebound, the defense has to haul you down, you get second chances, the goalie’s out of position — only good things can happen off a second chance.”

As usual, it was Kolzig who held his team in the game for as long as possible. Outshooting the Caps 17-5 in the first, the Flyers led 1-0 on Tony Amonte’s goal. Justin Williams and Keith Primeau made it 3-0 by the six-minute mark of the second period, and the suspense of who would win seemed to be over.

“They came at us pretty hard, and we didn’t seem to respond too well,” said Kolzig. “It seems like it takes us to get down two, three goals to get going, and it was a little too late. We need to come out of the gates hard right off the bat. We knew they would come at us — they do every time in this building.”

Washington mysteriously came to life in the third period as Joel Kwiatkowski and Brian Sutherby sandwiched scores around Jeremy Roenick’s goal. The Caps outplayed the Flyers badly the final 20 minutes, but that came after Philadelphia had only to hold the visitors at bay to earn the win.

“They are a good hockey club, they came hard and we had a hard time getting the puck out of our zone,” Caps center Robert Lang said. “That’s the start of everything, in your own end. You take care of it and you’ll play a lot better.”

The Caps didn’t even escape without an injury, the seriousness of which was not immediately revealed. Rookie defenseman Steve Eminger was driven into the rear boards by Flyers enforcer Donald Brashear early in the first period and did not return. His injury was described by a Caps spokesman as “an upper body injury.”

If it is serious, it would be significant for Washington. Eminger, a first-round pick (12th overall) two years ago, has been a standout so far, despite a minus-9 defensive rating.

He has been playing more than 20 minutes a night, far more than a 20-year-old rookie should in the eyes of some observers, but Washington has little choice. As it is, the Caps are skating two proven NHL veterans, Eminger and three players who have spent the majority of their careers in the minors.

Should Washington need a replacement from Portland, Maine, which seems probable, Rick Berry is a likely candidate. Berry, who spent all of last season with the Caps but most of it in street clothes, has two goals and three points with the Pirates but has more NHL experience than any other defenseman in the minors.


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