- The Washington Times - Friday, December 23, 2005

There are times when hard work simply is not enough in the NHL, when superior talent overpowers an opponent.

Last night, though, hard work propelled the Washington Capitals to a 4-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens at MCI Center. Having outworked their opponents for the first two periods with nothing to show for it, the Caps (12-19-2) had a four-goal outburst in the final 20 minutes to give them their second two-game winning streak of the season and head into the Christmas break on a decidedly happy note.

“Before going into a break you want to feel good about yourself,” said center Jeff Halpern, who assisted on three of the Caps’ goals. “When you got time off the worst thing that could happen is you lose a game. You have that much more time to think about it. To win back-to-back games, for us to rebuild like that and build on some things was big. Not being complacent after a win was big for us. We’re trying to claw ourselves back to that .500 level.”

It was a game dominated by officials for the first 40 minutes. The lack of scoring (1-0 in Montreal’s favor) could be attributed to two factors. First, Olie Kolzig was outstanding in net for Washington. Secondly, the young Caps were missing out on chances.

That changed when the final period begin. Kolzig continued to dominate on a 41-save night, and the Caps opened up and started digging pucks off the boards and making pinpoint passes.

Mathieu Biron tied the game with his second goal in as many nights as the designated power-play shooter. Two minutes later, Dainius Zubrus dug a puck out and jammed it through goalie Cristobal Huet to put the Caps up. Montreal tied it but Matt Pettinger drilled a shot through Huet as the Caps regained the lead. Later rookie Alex Ovechkin scored his 20th of the season in just his 33rd game.

“It was huge,” coach Glen Hanlon said of the comeback. “Lots of nights we talk about Olie. Again Olie made a huge save in the second period on the breakaway to keep it a one-goal game and some saves later on. But I thought everybody played a role. … It’s just nice to see everyone sort of contribute.”

On the down side, Washington went through another serious breakdown when up two men. This time it came in the first period with Montreal ahead on a Richard Zednik goal. The Caps had a two-man advantage for 1:56 but got just two harmless shots off. The previous night against Atlanta they scored twice with a two-man advantage for the first time this season.

Notes — Center Saku Koivu, the Canadiens’ captain, missed the game with a groin injury. So did Washington left wing Jeff Friesen, who last played Nov. 6. … Caps defenseman Nolan Yonkman was the only healthy scratch for either team. … The entire NHL is off today and tomorrow. The Caps are next in action Tuesday night at MCI Center against Boston. They practice at 7 p.m. Monday at the Gardens Ice House in Laurel.

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