- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 20, 2005

MONTREAL — The formerly red-hot Montreal Canadiens apparently thought they had a freebie last night. Instead, they now have their first losing streak of the season.

The Washington Capitals, playing their best game of the season most of the way, staked goalie Olie Kolzig to a three-goal lead in the first period and rode it to a 5-1 shocker over the Eastern Conference powerhouse at Bell Centre. It was Montreal’s second loss in a row.

A players-only closed door meeting was called by the Canadiens right after the game, and loud screaming could be heard from the dressing room. They were not a happy bunch.

The win was just Washington’s second against eight losses on the road, and it came without Alex Ovechkin getting a single point. He was a force; the Canadiens constantly watched for him, but his magic was not needed.

The only negative on the night was that Washington (8-12-0) went the final 29 minutes of the game with just one shot, which isn’t usually a winning formula. However, that one shot turned out to be a goal.

Kolzig was the difference, but he wasn’t alone. The Caps had been primed to pounce on an unsuspecting, top-tier opponent, and the Canadiens (13-5-3) fit the bill.

“I wanted everyone to see our guys, to see how hard they worked,” coach Glen Hanlon said. “And that’s all we asked, just to do what we did, and they were great. From day one we’ve been committed to working, and I’m glad people got to see us play.”

The veteran goalie was anxious to get back after not playing in four straight games because of a hamstring injury. While the Caps padded their quick lead, Kolzig was protecting it. Had he allowed an early score, the Canadiens might have been able to gain momentum. But Kolzig was phenomenal, turning aside attempts he might not have even seen.

“I want to say he preserved the win,” Hanlon said of his goalie, who made 43 saves. “Olie played a huge part in our win, as he usually does, but sometimes for Olie we only get him a one-goal lead.”

It was Washington’s first victory by more than one goal.

Kolzig got help, something that has not happened most nights. The Caps forechecked, backchecked, used sticks to poke or sweep check, finished body checks and went down to block shots.

The Canadiens’ Michael Ryder narrowed the score to 4-1 on a power play 12:40 into the second period. Montreal dominated play for the next seven minutes. They poured eight shots on Kolzig, and he rejected them all.

Washington broke in front 23 seconds into the game when Brian Sutherby scored his second goal in as many games; he added the Caps’ final goal late in the third.

“I might have had one last year or in junior,” Sutherby said when asked about his last two-goal night. “This was my first in the NHL. We got off to a great start even though this is a tough building to play in. We came out hard from the start, and when you got Olie Kolzig in net standing tall, that’s all she wrote.”

Brian Willsie made it 2-0 off a three-on-one break. He tried to pass, but the puck glanced off a defender’s stick and streaked past goalie Yann Danis.

It became 3-0 when center Brooks Laich scored his first NHL goal off a rebound 9:20 into the first period. Just two minutes earlier Laich had skated to the bench hunched over after being slashed across the left hand.

Chris Clark used nasty persistence to get the fourth goal, stealing the puck, stick-handling through the defense and finally scoring from close range on a wrist shot from a bad angle at 6:25 of the second. Three minutes later Montreal pulled the previously unbeaten Danis and inserted Jose Theodore.

Notes — Defenseman Nolan Yonkman was activated from injured reserve to play in last night’s game. It was his first game since Nov.3 when he also came off IR with a groin problem, but he came down with a hip pointer on his first shift. The Caps did not have to make any other personnel move since Yonkman filled out the 23-man roster. … Defensemen Ivan Majesky and Mathieu Biron were the healthy scratches; center Dainius Zubrus (groin), left wing Jeff Friesen (groin) and right wing Stephen Peat (broken right hand) were the medical scratches.

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