Jagr, Caps roll along in OT, 4-3

Wing's goal in last minute beats Islanders, gives him 11 points in past 2 games

January 14, 2003|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - The final minute of overtime was ticking away and the MCI Center crowd was voicing its impatience, as the Washington Capitals struggled to hold onto the puck for a solid shot on the game's final power play.

Then Peter Bondra got off a shot and Robert Lang made a huge effort to maintain control of the slippery piece of rock-hard rubber. The New York Islanders began inching toward Lang, forgetting to cover their backs.

Behind them, Jaromir Jagr was hanging around the far post, a forgotten man, until Lang sent the pass across the crease and Jagr one-timed it into the Islanders' net with 36.4 seconds left, giving the Caps a 4-3 victory.

"When you're lucky, you're lucky," said Jagr, smiling in the locker room. "And when you're hot, you're hot."

Right now, the Caps' All-Star right wing is as hot as they come in the NHL. Last night, on the heels of a seven-point game against the Florida Panthers on Saturday night, Jagr produced two goals and two assists.

Jagr is the first NHL player to produce 11 points in consecutive games since his former Pittsburgh Penguins teammate, Mario Lemieux, did it in November 1995.

Jagr's performance is an exclamation point to his team's sizzling performance over the past six weeks.

"I'm finding myself playing my game," Jagr said. "I have patience. When you are struggling, you have no patience. But, now, I have the confidence.

"But it is not just me. I can hear it in the dressing room. After the second period, guys were wondering why we were only up by one goal. That's good. Everyone is smiling."

The Caps (21-16-5-2), who have earned points in 13 consecutive games, were still on fire from their 12-2 victory over the Panthers. By the end of the first period, Jagr had a goal and two assists and Washington had a 3-1 lead on goals by Sergei Gonchar (power play), Jagr and Kip Miller.

"When I was 8 years old, I scored 11 points in back-to-back games; I sure did," said Capitals coach Bruce Cassidy. "But I've never seen a player do it at any professional level. He's on fire. You can see it in his eyes.

"At the end of the first period, I don't know if we deserved to be up 3-1. We had one guy playing great and the rest of us were OK. Our defense was a little tired, and it showed in that third period. They just outmuscled us and put the puck in the net."

The Islanders (19-17-5-2) were an equally hot team coming into this game. Having scored points in 10 of their previous 12 games, New York never stopped trying after falling two goals behind. Oleg Kvasha scored at 6:37 of the second period to bring the Islanders within one goal.

And when Michael Peca scored with 4:17 to play, with the Caps' checking line of Steve Konowalchuk, Mike Grier and Jeff Halpern literally on its knees trying to stop the play, it looked like the Caps were all but out of gas.

"But, in the end, we found a way to win," Cassidy said. "Our team couldn't be more confident."

The win was the 22nd in the Capitals' past 26 meetings with New York and stretched their home domination of New York to 11-0-2, dating to March 2, 1997.

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