- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 1, 2003

Washington Capitals coach Bruce Cassidy gave top defensemen Sergei Gonchar and Brendan Witt the night off, and the lack of experience on the blue line showed as the Caps failed to hold three leads in a 4-4 overtime preseason tie with Philadelphia at MCI Center.

Fringe defensemen J.F. Fortin and Nolan Yonkman, who had missed the first five games with back and neck injuries, respectively, got their first action in place of Gonchar and Witt.

Enforcers Alex Henry and Stephen Peat both dressed in anticipation of a repeat of the fight-filled 4-2 loss to the Flyers on Sept.21. But the night’s only bout matched Caps career goal-scoring leader Peter Bondra, who fights about as often as preseason games sell out at MCI, against fellow European Sami Kapanen.

“There were a bunch of guys in a scramble, and I got punched first,” Bondra said. “It’s part of the game. You want to help the guy who’s next to you.”

With Gonchar and Witt out, Washington’s young defense didn’t make it easy on goalie Olie Kolzig, who faced 41 shots, 20 in the third period. The last of those was put in the net by Tony Amonte with 3.3 seconds left to force overtime.

“There were some weird goals, some weird bounces,” Kolzig said. “I can’t fault the D on any of them. I’ve still got some work to do on [not giving up] rebounds. We’ve got some inexperience back there, so we’re going to have some growing pains.”

After the Caps were outshot 7-1 in the first period, Brian Sutherby left them shorthanded with a high-sticking penalty at 3:57 of the second period. But they were the team that took advantage as Robert Lang took a feed from Michael Nylander and beat Robert Esche glove side for his first goal of preseason.

However, the lead was short-lived as Mark Recchi wristed a shot past Kolzig from the slot at 6:32. Just 66 seconds later, defenseman Jim Vandermeer got free for a point-blank shot that went through Kolzig’s legs.

Lang tied the game on Washington’s first power play with a blast from the outside edge of the left circle at 12:26 of the period, Bondra and rookie Alex Semin getting assists. Steve Konowalchuk gave Washington a 3-2 edge at 15:50, taking a pretty head-man pass from Fortin and beating Esche 5-hole with a backhand. But when defenseman Josef Boumedienne left the Caps shorthanded again with what Cassidy termed a bad penalty, the Flyers needed nine seconds to tie it again as Recchi’s shot bounced off teammate John LeClair and Caps defenseman John Gruden before flying past Kolzig’s glove.

“It goes from shift to shift right now,” Cassidy said of his team’s defense. “We spent a lot of time in our end in the third period. It was kind of a lucky goal, but it was still disappointing. We were pretty good at protecting leads last year.”

Jeff Halpern started what should have been the game-winning play by being stoned by Antero Niittymaki, but the young goalie gave up the rebound. Boumedienne went behind the net to get the puck and throw it out front, from where Bondra poked it into the net with 13:04 left.

Notes — Jaromir Jagr, who pulled a groin slightly, and Henry, who got checked into the boards, sat out the third period. …

The Caps’ protected and available lists for tomorrow’s waiver draft didn’t contain any real surprises except for Glen Metropolit and Andreas Salomonsson. General manager George McPhee said he protected the forwards, who weren’t invited to training camp, in case there are exposed players around the NHL that he wants to claim and put on the 20-man protected list. The only available players on the 30-man roster are Gruden and forwards Darcy Verot and Trent Whitfield, all borderline candidates to make the team.

The Flyers exposed Chris Therien, but McPhee said his $3million salary is too rich for the cost-cutting Caps though Washington could use such a solid defenseman. Among the former Caps available are forwards Chris Ferraro, Peter Ferraro and Matt Herr and defensemen Nolan Baumgartner, Patrick Boileau and Todd Rohloff.


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