- The Washington Times - Friday, March 31, 2006

Montreal captain Saku Koivu scored on a breakaway in overtime last night, powering the Canadiens to a 3-2 victory over a tired Washington team.

It was Koivu’s first goal in 23 games and goalie Olie Kolzig nearly stopped the shot, but it trickled through his legs as he reached behind him to make sure it didn’t do exactly that.

“I thought I had it jammed between my body and the glove,” Kolzig said. “I didn’t see it and I thought I was going to hold it long enough for the whistle and then all of a sudden I saw it trickle in. The puck didn’t go my way on that play.”

Up to that point Kolzig had played almost a perfect game at the Bell Centre in Montreal, making only one mistake in regulation and it was costly.

Rookie center Chris Higgins scored twice, once off Kolzig’s key mistake, and the Canadiens beat the Caps to even the season series at 2-2.

At 8:20 of the third period with the game tied 1-1, right wing Brian Willsie took a hooking penalty. The ensuing faceoff was to Kolzig’s right and was won by Jeff Halpern. The center pulled the puck back in the goalie’s direction, he reached out and stopped its motion with his stick.

But then he hesitated for a second, his stick sliding away from the puck for a moment while it appeared he was trying to decide which way to pass it. As he paused, Higgins reached in and tapped it into the net past the startled goalie.

It spoiled an otherwise brilliant effort by the veteran.

But there was life left in the Caps. With time running out and Washington up 6-on-4 with Kolzig pulled, Halpern poked a backhander through to tie the game with less than three seconds left, setting up overtime.

“At the time it was a great feeling, tying the score up,” Halpern said. “It’s always fun. It’s a fun building, it’s a fun atmosphere and it gave us a chance to really silence the crowd, if we had pulled it off in overtime or a shootout.”

Alex Ovechkin continued his methodical march toward 100 points as a rookie when he assisted on Washington’s two goals. He now has 48 goals, 46 assists and 94 points in 71 games. The assists also gave him points in seven straight games — five goals, seven assists for 12 points.

Kolzig had the previous night off against Carolina and perhaps that was a good thing because the Canadiens made him pay for it. He faced 17 shots in the first period, 11 of them while trying to prevent Montreal from scoring on the power play. The Canadiens’ Cristobal Huet saw just seven shots, none in the first 61/2 minutes.

The Canadiens were on almost a continuous power play in the first, thanks to five minors the Caps took. Playing a very hard game against the Hurricanes on Wednesday night then jumping on a plane for a two-hour flight could have had an affect on the Caps.

The first period was so lopsided in the Canadiens’ favor that the Caps never had possession in the Montreal zone for the first 6:38 and that foray didn’t last long because shortly thereafter Washington took another penalty. The Caps came out of the first without damage despite the fact the Canadiens were scoring nearly 25 percent of the time on the power play at home. Washington even killed all 31 seconds of a two-man disadvantage.

The teams’ offense finally produced goals in the second period, although it wasn’t an explosion. Higgins broke in on a 2-on-1 with Koivu, defenseman Mathieu Biron the only Cap in front of Kolzig. Higgins and Koivu played catch before Higgins took the shot that he had no defense for at 11:21.

Washington got that one back with only 1:23 left in the second. Brian Sutherby got the puck up to Ovechkin and the rookie took a hard shot from the right, his off wing. Huet seemed to have a little trouble with the shot and kicked it out to his right where Ben Clymer was motoring through the left circle. Clymer quickly backhanded the puck and Huet was beaten.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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