LANDOVER -- Goalie Ollie Kolzig, despite picking up the loss last night before 10,526 at the Capital Centre, called the 5-3 defeat of the Washington Capitals by the U.S. Olympic team one of his most exciting experiences.
"This was the first time I ever played in this building, and it was a great thrill, one of my biggest thrills," he said.
Kolzig, a rookie called up from the AHL Baltimore Skipjacks to play in last night's game, gave up two goals on nine shots. "I had been a backup for the Capitals for four or five games but never got in a game. I really enjoyed myself tonight."
Kolzig entered the game midway through the second period to spell starter Jim Hrivnak, another call-up from the Skipjacks, who gave up the first three Team USA goals.
Kolzig, who was born in South Africa, where his father was stationed, but calls Vancouver, British Columbia, his home, allowed the final two goals but made seven saves, several of which were spectacular.
"Ollie played extremely well," said Capitals coach Terry Murray of Washington's No. 1 draft choice in 1989. "It's tough enough to come into a game cold, but he had to contend with several very tough shots. He made some big saves, especially on shots around the crease and breakaways. I've seen a lot of improvement in Ollie in just one year."
Steve Heinze scored two goals and assisted on one and Ray LaBlanc made 32 saves to lead Team USA to its first win over an NHL team since Nov. 17, when it beat the San Jose Sharks.
Heinze, the property of the Boston Bruins, scored Team USA's first goal and the team's go-ahead goal and assisted on the final goal. Le- Blanc, property of the Chicago Blackhawks, gave up two first-period goals, then shut the door.
"Team USA has really improved since the last time I played against them [a 6-2 win Sept. 13 in Albany, N.Y., which started the NHL tour]," said Kolzig. "They moved the puck well and toasted me a couple of times tonight. I think they will do really well in the Olympics."
The victory ended Team USA's pre-Olympic schedule with a 4-14-3 record against NHL opposition. Its next game will be against Italy next month in Albertville, France, in the Winter Olympics.
Guy Gosselin, Jim Johannson and Ted Donato also scored for the winners. Washington, without nine regulars who did not dress, got goals from Nick Kypreos, Ken Sabourin and Mike Lalor.
What's next for Kolzig?
"I'm going to go back to Baltimore and work as hard as I can on improving so that eventually I can play with the Capitals in the NHL. Next training camp will be a key one for me. We have Donnie [Beaupre], Mike [Liut] and Jimmy [Hrivnak], plus Byron [Dafoe], and we have a new goalie, Wayne Dirksen, coming in from the University of Wisconsin. It should be a very interesting camp, and I have to make sure that I stay optimistic."
Clark Donatelli, a member of the 1988 Olympic team who assisted on the second goal last night, said: "Washington is a very good NHL hockey team. This is a big win for us, a great way to go to the Olympics. It's a second chance for me, and I want a medal. This team has come a long way, and I think we have a solid chance this time."
NOTES: C Harry Mews, who was loaned by the Capitals to AHL New Haven, has been returned because the Nighthawks have too many centers. Mews has been assigned to the Skipjacks. . . . D Greg Brown, who had been playing for AHL Rochester, and D Moe Mantha, who had been playing with NHL Winnipeg, have joined Team USA. Shawn McEachen, the team's leading scorer, signed a "multi-year contract" with Pittsburgh on Tuesday night. . . . D Al Iafrate was named the Capitals captain for last night's game, with D Calle Johansson and C Michal Pivonka as assistants. G Kolzig and Hrivnak and RW John Purves, Greenlaw and Reggie Savage joined the Capitals for last night's game from the Skipjacks. G Don Beaupre, G Mike Liut, D Rod Langway, D Kevin Hatcher, LW Randy Burridge, LW Kelly Miller, C Dale Hunter, C Mike Ridley and RW Dino Ciccarelli did not dress for the Capitals.