Jagr, Capitals start with 6-1 victory

Star has goal and assist

Washington opens season with a rout of Devils

Hockey

October 07, 2001|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - With 4:43 left in the second period of last night's season opener between the Washington Capitals and New Jersey Devils, New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur sat in his crease, his hands draped over his knees, his stick sitting uselessly across his skates.

What could he do? In a matter of seconds, he had stopped a break-away by the Capitals' Jaromir Jagr only to see Jagr get the puck back and feed Adam Oates near the bottom of the right circle. It was from there that Oates had made a wonderful pass - right under Brodeur's stick - to the Caps' attacking offensive defenseman, Sergei Gonchar, for a shot that beat Brodeur cleanly and left him sitting there looking at a three-goal deficit.

By the time the night was over, the Capitals would win in a rout, 6-1, with their goalie Olie Kolzig making 37 saves. It was Washington's first season-opening victory in three years.

Word was out: If the way the Capitals played against New Jersey - a Stanley Cup finalist each of the past two years - is an example of what is to come, they are going to be a very big threat, indeed.

"I know the feeling Brodeur had," said Kolzig, whose smile broadened as he thought of Brodeur sitting in front of the net. "He was thinking, `Is this ever going to end?' "

The sold out crowd of 18,672 began cheering early at MCI Center as the Capitals were introduced with their new star, Jagr, who made it a memorable night with a goal and an assist.

There was only one thing Jagr wished for that he didn't get: a goal in the first period.

"I was kind of nervous before the game," Jagr said. "I wanted to score in the first period, because it would have made things easier. But our third line made a difference. They got the first two goals, Olie kept us in the game and everything went well from there."

During the opening ceremonies, the "Southeast Division Champions" banner for the 2000-2001 season was raised to cheers that turned into the chant "Let's Go Caps! Let's Go Caps!" and then into boos, as the Devils skated on to the ice.

Then the hockey game tipped off and the cheering roared on.

New Jersey scored first on a goal by rookie Josef Boumedienne. It was his first NHL goal. His joy was palpable as he sat down on the team bench. But the Devils' lead lasted only 94 seconds, only until Steve Konowalchuk fed Jeff Halpern on a one-timer and a 1-1 tie with 3:07 left in the first.

Konowalchuk (two assists), Halpern (one goal, one assist) and Ulf Dahlen (one goal, two assists) compose what is considered one of the NHL's best "checking" lines. They are known for shutting down the opposition and last night, they did just that. But they also acted as the catalyst for Washington's offense.

It didn't matter that New Jersey was outshooting Washington 2-to-1 until 14:18 of the second period. Most of those shots were from the outside and easy for Kolzig to see and handle. And, by then, Konowalchuk and Dahlen had combined to set up defenseman Calle Johansson for the go-ahead goal 1:50 into that second period, and by then Kolzig had already made 19 saves to rouse the crowd into chants of "Olie, Olie!"

Jagr was being shadowed by New Jersey's tough-minded defenseman, Scott Stevens. Jagr had only one shot in the opening period, but it was around that 14:18 mark in the second that Oates was shifted onto a line with Jagr and Dainius Zubrus. A minute later, at 13:16, Jagr had his first goal as a Capital.

It came after Oates won the faceoff in the Devils' zone and got the puck to Zubrus, who got the puck to Jagr, who skated across the front of the crease and pumped the puck past Brodeur for a 3-1 lead.

Jagr finished off the goal by blowing a kiss that seemed to be directed to the crowd, which was on its feet. But Jagr said later, "The kiss goes to the guy up in the sky."

When Jagr, Oates and Gonchar combined for the next goal, it seemed to register the full impact of the Caps' attack on Brodeur, who had little to say afterward - "Nothing was happening for me," he said. "The bounces weren't going my way." The scoreboard read 4-1.

When Dahlen scored on a power play with 2:24 left in the middle period, the six-time All-Star had had it. Brodeur finished the period, but did not return after intermission, concluding his night with 15 saves on 20 shots.

His replacement, Scott Clemmensen, fared somewhat better, allowing just one more goal, a power-play score by Peter Bondra.

"In the first game of the year, it's nice to know we could live up to the expectations," Kolzig said. "You really don't know how you're going to react to all the expectations. It was nice to open the season this way."

New Jersey 1 0 0 - 1

Washington 1 4 1 - 6

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