- The Washington Times - Monday, October 13, 2003

TORONTO — With Brendan Witt out with a facial injury, Washington’s defense was as thin as Calista Flockhart for last night’s game.

And yet the Caps showed plenty of heart, twice rallying from one-goal deficits to earn a 2-2 tie with the Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. Washington managed the draw despite allowing eight power plays and being outshot 36-18.

“We knew they were going to come after us,” goalie Olie Kolzig said. “They’ve got some big forwards who are tough to contain. Every time I looked up there was another [Cap] going to the box, but we hung in there and got a point. Our penalty-killing did the job.”

So did Kolzig with 34 saves.

“Goaltenders get you a point [sometimes] and tonight he did it for them,” said Leafs coach Pat Quinn. “With the opportunities we had … it’s a game we shouldn’t be leaving on the table.”

Quinn might want to have his team work on it’s power play. After all, the Maple Leafs were just one of eight on the night. In fact Kolzig and the penalty-killing unit fought off seven 5-on-4 power-plays and allowed it’s only short-handed goal when they were down two men.

Meanwhile, the Caps’ power play clicked twice in four tries. Peter Bondra’s third goal in as many games made it 1-1 at 9:33 of the second period. Robert Lang scored the second one, whipping a rocket past Leafs goalie Ed Belfour to forge the tie with 11:11 left.

“Sometimes that’s how you’re going to get points,” Lang said of the combination of strong special teams and plenty of Kolzig. “We have to hold [things together] until the young D get their legs under themselves a little bit.”

Just 20 games into his career, 19-year-old Steve Eminger has his NHL legs. The Toronto native earned third star honors after playing 25:58 — third-most on the Caps — much of it against the Leafs’ top line of Mats Sundin, Mikeal Renberg and Owen Nolan.

“Emmer was so solid on his feet,” said Caps coach Bruce Cassidy, whose team is now 1-1-1. “Once he gets the pace down moving the puck, he’s going to be a good one for sure.”

Washington’s short-handed run began just 40 seconds in with an interference penalty on defenseman Joel Kwiatkowski, but the penalty-killers — led by the usually offense-minded Gonchar — rose to the challenge with Kolzig facing just one scoring chance.

Kolzig stoned new Leaf Joe Nieuwendyk on the doorstep at 5:28, but 73 seconds later, the goalie caught a bad break when a puck thrown toward the slot was inadvertently redirected into the net off Boyd Gordon’s stick. The goal was credited to Toronto’s Nik Antropov.

The penalty-killers and Kolzig came up big again when Brian Sutherby left the Caps short-handed with a hooking call at 2:56 of the second period. The Leafs put four shots on net but couldn’t add to their lead. Eminger got back to prevent a breakway by Sundin, sending the Swede flying into the net in the process.

The Caps needed only nine seconds on their second power play to make it 1-1 as Bondra blasted the puck past Belfour after a cross-ice feed from Gonchar following a faceoff win by Lang. The penalty-killers stayed perfect when Jeff Halpern left Washington short-handed a third time at 9:55. However, Halpern’s hooking penalty 4:51 later — just 59 seconds after Gonchar took down Sundin on a rush to the Caps’ net — was a killer. Playing two men down with Gordon, Eminger and Kwiatkowski (72 NHL games) proved too much to overcome as Mogilny fired a slap shot into the net.

Toronto outshot Washington 18-4 in the second period and when defenseman Jason Doig high-sticked Antropov at 1:48 of the second period, the Leafs had as many power plays — seven — as the Caps had shots. Lang almost got the Caps even shortly thereafter before Leafs enforcer Tie Domi — who hit the left post in the second period — almost made it 3-1, but Kolzig somehow kept the puck on the red line at the left post with 14:02 left.

Washington visits Montreal tonight for the second of six straight road games and backup goalie Sebastian Charpentier will give Kolzig a well-deserved night off.

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