- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 18, 2004

The focus was on Jaromir Jagr for most of last night’s game at MCI Center, but it was his best buddy still with the Capitals, Kip Miller, whose power-play goal gave Washington a 4-3 overtime victory over the New York Rangers.

Jagr, a Cap for 21/2 seasons before being traded to the Rangers on Jan.23, was booed when he hit the ice and taunted as soon as he touched the puck. Jagr needed three shifts to crack the scoresheet, was in the penalty box for Jeff Halpern’s go-ahead goal in the third period and then beat Olie Kolzig to force overtime.

“I thought it was going to be a lot worse,” Jagr said of the crowd reaction. “It wasn’t a surprise.”

With Jamie Lundmark off for hooking 46 seconds into overtime, Jagr wasn’t on the ice when Miller rounded out his first three-point night of the season 32 seconds later by ripping a shot past New York goalie Mike Dunham with Halpern providing a screen. The Caps had been 1-36-3 when trailing after two periods and 0-2-8 in overtime.

“It’s not two points putting us in a playoff spot, but it’s a little bit of a reward for some of the [hard] work that we’ve done,” Halpern said after the talent-depleted Caps ended a five-game losing streak in which they were outscored 23-7.

Trailing 2-1 after a scoreless second period, the Caps scored a pair of power play goals within 1:21 early in the third.

With Fedor Tyutin off for holding a stick, Josef Boumedienne slapped his second goal of the season past Dunham — screened by Halpern — from the left point at 5:16. Then after Jagr high-sticked Brendan Witt, Miller passed to the open Halpern for the backhander at 6:37 that was his team-high 14th goal.

Kolzig preserved the 3-2 lead by stacking the pads to rob Jan Hlavac at the right post with 5:01 left, but then Jagr got behind Witt and Co. and fired a shot past Kolzig from the right circle for his 28th goal with 2:43 left in regulation.

“It’s pretty tough to keep that guy off the board,” Kolzig said. “It was a heck of a pass by [Mark] Messier, and Jags was skating down the wing with speed, shot it in stride and put it over my glove. It was a good shot by a great player.”

The Caps’ four power-play goals in seven opportunities doubled their two scores in 16 chances during the five-game skid. And they snuffed all eight New York power plays after allowing three scores in Tuesday’s 4-1 loss in Pittsburgh.

“We did a heck of a job killing the penalties or the game could have been over in the second period,” Kolzig said. “Hats off to the PK, and then the power play took over. It was obviously a game of special teams.”

Jagr, acquired from Pittsburgh on July11, 2001 in the deal that was supposed to turn the Caps from contenders into champions, never was the offensive force in Washington that he was in winning five NHL scoring titles for the Penguins.

And since the Caps didn’t win even one playoff series with Jagr, his $11million salary became an albatross that wasn’t lifted until he was traded in the second of what wound up being eight cost-cutting deals.

Down 2-0 on goals by Bobby Holik and Tyutin (with Jagr picking up the second assist) in the first eight minutes and having put only one shot on Dunham, Washington got back in the game thanks to its revamped power play.

No longer boasting such formidable scorers as Jagr, Robert Lang, Sergei Gonchar and Peter Bondra, the no-name unit needed 41 seconds to click. Joel Kwiatkowski and Boumedienne set up Brian Willsie for a right circle blast that soared past Dunham with help from Halpern’s screen at 11:06 of the first period.

Willsie, claimed off waivers from Colorado on Oct.3, has three goals in four games after scoring five in his first 39 games. Only Halpern and the injured Dainius Zubrus (12 goals) have more goals among current Caps.

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