- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 25, 2003

The always-loaded Detroit Red Wings left stars Steve Yzerman, Dominik Hasek, Nicklas Lidstrom, Brendan Shanahan and Derian Hatcher home for last night’s preseason game against the Washington Capitals at MCI Center.

As usual for the Red Wings against the Caps, it didn’t matter. Detroit spotted Washington a quick lead and then roared back with four goals in less than 16 minutes en route to a 4-3 victory that was more one-sided than the final score.

The loss, which dropped Washington to 2-2, was generally meaningless because it’s preseason, but giving the Red Wings four consecutive power plays during the first and second periods was discouraging. Goalie Rastislav Stana was hung out to dry on first-period goals by Pavel Datsyuk and prospect Niklas Kronvall before Datsyuk blasted a shot past him 23 seconds into the second period and Brett Hull — the only big name in the Detroit lineup — fired untouched from the lower left circle 1:50 later.

The Caps, who played the majority of their regulars including all but one of last season’s top six scorers, weren’t much better offensively when it mattered than they were in their own end.

The shots were 9-8 in favor of Detroit midway through the opening period, but the Caps didn’t test Red Wings goalie Manny Legace again until early in the second period when they trailed 4-1 and the vistors had peppered Stana with 11 more pucks.

When Maxime Ouellet relieved fellow youngster Stana midway through the game, the shots were 21-12 Red Wings, and the outcome was no longer in doubt. Ouellet faced five shots in his 30 minutes after coach Bruce Cassidy told his team to stick to its plan and not lose its poise.

“Last year that might have snowballed to 7-2 or 7-3,” Cassidy said with a measure of satisfaction. “Tonight it came down to the end.”

Not that Cassidy was proud of his penalty-killers being beaten three times in six chances in the first 23 minutes, admittedly with top defensive defenseman Brendan Witt not on the ice for any of the Detroit goals.

“Clearing pucks was an issue for us last year, and it will be this year again,” Cassidy said. “It’s something we have addressed, something we have to get better at.”

The biggest bright spot for the Caps was right wing Dainius Zubrus, who continued his torrid preseason with his fourth goal and second assist in three games. Zubrus’ goal, a power play marker off feeds from Jaromir Jagr and Jeff Halpern, put the Caps up 1-0 after 2:36.

Zubrus’ assist was smartly played off the rear boards and quickly redirected to the slot to the streaking Miller, who had gotten behind Jiri Hudler and easily beat Legace with 1:46 left in the second period.

Peter Bondra closed the Caps within 4-3 on a power-play rocket at 4:10 of the third period on helpers from 19-year-old Russian Alexander Semin and Halpern, making his preseason debut after being sidelined last week with a pulled groin.

Notes — Washington, which opened preseason with a 5-2 victory in Detroit last Friday, is 2-13-1-1 for real against Detroit since 1994, including the four-game sweep in the 1998 Stanley Cup finals. The teams meet this year on Nov.24 at Joe Louis Arena and on Dec.13 at MCI Center. …

Caps general manager George McPhee denied a rumored deal on ESPN.com that had goalie Olie Kolzig being traded to Colorado and center Robert Lang to Detroit, with surplus goalie Curtis Joseph coming from the Red Wings and center Alex Tanguay from the Avalanche. … Despite losing records the previous three years, the Caps’ all-time preseason mark is 123-99-28-4. … The Caps practice at Piney Orchard today before facing Pittsburgh tomorrow in Portland, Maine. Washington is home again Wednesday against Philadelphia and a week from today against Carolina before concluding preseason next Saturday at Carolina.

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