- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 22, 2004

Allowing only 11 goals in his previous six games, Olie Kolzig seemed to recapture the form that made him the NHL’s top goalie in 2000.

Last night, Kolzig reverted to his habit during the first half of the season of giving up a bad goal just about every game. He was handcuffed by a shot from just inside the blue line by Alexei Ponikarovsky as the Toronto Maple Leafs rallied for a 3-2 victory over the Washington Capitals before 14,987 at MCI Center.

The goal, Ponikarovsky’s third of the year, came 3:47 into the third period. Bryan McCabe kept the puck in the Washington end as he tumbled to the ice. Ponikarovsky jumped on it and threw it between the legs of defenseman Jason Doig and then through Kolzig’s. Caps coach Glen Hanlon, a former NHL goalie, defended Kolzig, saying he was in the right spot but just didn’t stop the spinning puck that acted like a dying quail.

Kolzig wasn’t so forgiving of himself.

“It was a lucky one,” Kolzig said. “I picked it up late and didn’t get down quick enough. It’s one of those seeing-eye things that went in, but in a game like that and the season that we’re having, they have to be stopped.”

Kolzig was virtually helpless to stop Ponikarovsky at the right post after passes by Tomas Kaberle and Nik Antropov at 8:28. The goal was the seventh of Ponikarovsky’s career but his fourth against Kolzig.

Peter Bondra, who had missed a golden opportunity on a shorthanded breakway at 11:08, closed the gap to 3-2 with 14:20 remaining on a one-timer from the high slot on assists from Sergei Gonchar and Robert Lang, but the Caps managed just one shot the rest of the way, albeit a terrific scoring chance by Kip Miller that Leafs goalie Ed Belfour turned aside.

NHL scoring leader Lang has 11 points the last six games while Bondra, the Caps’ all-time scoring leader, has 10 points in his last 10 games and Gonchar, the NHL’s top-scoring defenseman, has eight points in the past 11 games.

The defeat ended Washington’s string of consecutive games with at least a point at five (3-0-1-1) and stopped its home unbeaten streak at four games (3-0-1). The Caps fell to 14-27-5-2 overall, 0-2-2 against the Eastern Conference-leading Maple Leafs, and remain 14 points out of the last playoff spot with 34 games remaining.

“They played last night so they were a little tired, they were a little banged-up and we didn’t take advantage of it,” Kolzig said.

After a scoreless first period, the Caps’ second power play occurred just 1:29 into the second period thanks to a slashing penalty on Antropov. The advantage was halted after just 56 seconds when Jeff Halpern tripped Kaberle behind the Toronto net. But with the teams playing 4-on-4, Caps defenseman Josef Boumedienne intercepted a Leafs’ clearing attempt, skated into the right circle and drew defenders toward him before dishing a pretty backhand to Trent Whitfield who shoved the puck between Belfour’s legs at 3:05.

The goal was Whitfield’s second in four games after he failed to score in his first 14 games after being recalled from Portland on Dec. 12. The assist was the first point in five games this year for Boumedienne, who was promoted from the Pirates last Saturday.

However, the lead was short-lived. Leafs rookie defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo fired a shot from the high slot. Tough guy Tie Domi grabbed the puck when it bounced off bodies and Craig Johnson was in the right place to jam the rebound past Kolzig at 5:18.

Washington gained another power play when Matt Stajan was nabbed for hooking Jaromir Jagr, but the NHL’s fourth-ranked unit came up empty for the third time in as many tries. In fact, Antropov’s shorthanded rush was the best scoring chance during the advantage.

At 15:28, Mike Grier was hit in the head as he dived to block Colaiacovo’s shot but didn’t miss any ice time. Toronto came close to taking a 2-1 lead on its first power play courtesy of Miller’s hooking penalty at 16:07, but Kolzig reached behind him to prevent Domi’s shot from crossing the goal line as Stajan was ready to pounce on the loose puck in the crease.

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