Capitals wear out Jackets, 6-3

Gonchar has 2 goals, one assist as Washington ends three-game skid

January 10, 2002|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - Sergei Gonchar's big slap shot had sting last night.

The solid veteran, who leads all NHL defensemen in scoring, scored twice and assisted on a goal by Adam Oates in the Washington Capitals' 6-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets at MCI Center.

The victory ends a string of three straight losses for Washington, which improves to 17-20-7. The win also gives the Caps confidence heading into tomorrow's home game against the Eastern Conference-leading Toronto Maple Leafs (25-13-3).

"It was a good thing we won the hockey game," said Gonchar. "We didn't play perfect, but we won. That's what's important."

Washington has been known for its midseason rallies the past three seasons, producing a .672 winning percentage from January through the end of the regular season during that time. Though they are still three games below .500, the Caps want to start their run now.

"We have to keep it going," said Caps goalie Olie Kolzig, who had 19 saves. "It's past the halfway point of the season, we're pretty banged up, and we need to put a streak together. We gave up a lot of 2-on-3s and 2-on-1 breaks and if we do that against Toronto, odds are they'll bury most of them."

Last night, the Caps were playing a young team in just its second year of NHL competition and on a four-game road losing streak. The Blue Jackets were the perfect opponent for the Capitals.

Gonchar, who has 16 goals and 37 points, began by giving Washington a 2-1 lead with a power-play goal 3:19 into the second period. He retreated to just inside the blue line after the power-play faceoff. Four seconds later, he put the puck in the back of the net. He followed that by beginning the play that led to a goal by Oates at 13:16 to break a 2-2 tie, and then, with 14:02 left in the third he scored on another big blast from the point.

Jaromir Jagr scored unassisted a little more than two minutes later to make it 5-2, but he left the game shortly afterward. He said he did "something to my groin," but added he hoped it will be all right.

David Vyborny, Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre and Tyler Wright scored for Columbus.

With injuries piling up to the Caps' veterans, their roster had a different look.

Defensemen Todd Rohloff (one assist) and Jean-Francois Fortin, called up from Portland on Tuesday, made their NHL debuts. And with forward Ulf Dahlen (foot) still out and Peter Bondra (flu) sidelined, center Collin Forbes, a free agent signed Tuesday, made his Capitals debut, too. He scored the final goal of the game.

"Forbes is smart, and I think we can do a lot more with him - at center ice, killing penalties," Caps general manager George McPhee said. "Fortin is real poised and sees the ice well, and Rohloff has been giving the organization strength down low."

Columbus 1 1 1 - 3

Washington 1 2 3 - 6

First period - 1, Washington, Peat 2 (Sacco, Rohloff), 13:10. 2, Columbus, Vyborny 6 (Wright, Marshall), 17:16. Penalties - Oates, Was, double minor (high-sticking), 5:03.

Second period - 3, Washington, Gonchar 15 (Halpern, Zubrus), 3:19 (pp). 4, Columbus, Grand-Pierre 2 (Wright, Vyborny), 12:20. 5, Washington, Oates 8 (Jagr, Gonchar), 13:16. Penalties - Harkins, Clm (holding), 3:14; Jagr, Was (tripping), 7:22; Grand-Pierre, Clm (hooking), 18:39; Sloan, Clm (goalie interference), 19:53.

Third period - 6, Washington, Gonchar 16 (Zubrus, Oates), 5:58. 7, Washington, Jagr 15, 8:06. 8, Columbus, Wright 7 (Marshall), 8:31. 9, Washington, Forbes 1 (Nikolishin, Halpern), 18:36. Penalty-Rohloff, Was (tripping), 15:21.

Shots on goal - Columbus 10-8-4-22. Washington 8-14-17-39. Power-play opportunities - Columbus 0 of 4; Washington 1 of 3. Goalies - Columbus, Denis 6-10-3 (39 shots-33 saves). Washington, Kolzig 15-16-5 (22-19). A - 15,095 (18,672).

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