Caps run out of steam, but tough defense earns point vs. Senators, 0-0

Washington happy with hanging in after Ottawa forces action


April 06, 2002|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - All the talk has been about what happens to the Washington Capitals' NHL playoff chances if they win all of their games or lose one. No one has said a word about what happens if they tie one.

Now they are.

Last night, the Capitals and Ottawa Senators played 60 minutes of regulation hockey and another five minutes of overtime for the first home-ice, 0-0 tie in Washington's franchise history.

"We played our game in the first period and then got caught up in their up-and-down-the-ice game in the second," said Caps wing Jaromir Jagr. "It was a mistake. It was for nothing. When the third period came, our energy was low."

In the third period, the soldout crowd of 18,672 at MCI Center cheered loudly in support of the Capitals. But, at times, the Caps seemed to have legs of cement. They could not clear the puck and Ottawa dominated the period.

But the Senators couldn't score, either.

Overall, it was the third scoreless tie in Capitals history, as the team played to such a finish in Montreal on Dec. 10, 1988, and in Calgary on Oct. 30, 1998.

"We got a point that might be very valuable," said Caps coach Ron Wilson. "I'd rather look at it that way than as a point that might have gotten away. We've really solidified defensively."

The Capitals went into the game knowing it was a must game. Montreal, the team they are battling for the eighth and final playoff spot in the NHL's Eastern Conference had won Thursday night in Philadelphia.

So it was up to Washington to pull even or see its fate placed even more firmly in the hands of others.

Ottawa, in its own battle with Toronto for the fourth and fifth spots, came in not caring much about the battle between Montreal and Washington but positioned to have much to say about it. After playing the Caps last night, the Senators face Montreal twice next week in a home-and-home series.

"Montreal was probably hoping we'd win tonight, and Washington will be hoping we beat Montreal the next two games," said Ottawa's Benoit Brunet. "We have to go out there and play hard and try to win games. We can't take it easy because we have a playoff spot. We have to go hard."

The opening period began with the Capitals peppering Ottawa goalie Patrick Lalime but unable to get past him. And as puck after puck just missed its mark, it looked to be a long night.

The frustration came to light with a minute to play in the first period, when Caps winger Peter Bondra was called for goalie interference for running into Lalime (25 saves). That incident set off a series of little fights between Bondra and defenseman Shane Hnidy and the Caps' Jagr and Ottawa forward Daniel Alfredsson.

The outcome was that Ottawa wound up on a two-minute power play. But the Senators went 0-for-3 on the power play last night, just as the Caps went 0-for-2.

In the second period, Bondra, Jagr and Glen Metropolit had chances as the teams raced up and down the ice. But they couldn't score and, at the other end, Caps goalie Olie Kolzig (28 saves) did his job, fighting off good chances by Alfredsson and Shawn McEachern in a 13-second burst.

Kolzig was sharp over the closing 30 minutes and he had to be as the Caps were less able to clear the puck as the game wore on.

"We did a lot of good things," said Caps defenseman Sylvain Cote. "We knew we couldn't allow a goal and, by playing that kind of defense, we had fewer chances to score. It probably wasn't easy on the fans, but it was very intense for the players."

Ottawa 0 0 0 0 - 0

Washington 0 0 0 0 - 0

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