Caps get defensive, stop Canadiens

Team increases lead in Southeast to 3 points with dominating 4-1 win


February 25, 2003|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - The Washington Capitals testified against themselves last night. In a game against the Montreal Canadiens, the Caps reminded everyone they are more than capable of playing sound defense and controlling a hockey game from start to finish in a 4-1 victory.

Playing suffocating defense, the Capitals got goals from Ivan Ciernik, Jaromir Jagr, Peter Bondra and Steve Konowalchuk as three different lines contributed to the offense.

If Capitals coach Bruce Cassidy wanted to take on the role of prosecutor, his first question after the game may well have been, "Where have you guys been?"

Bondra and Konowalchuk broke seven-game scoring droughts.

But Cassidy, who had pointed to his star players and declared them missing in action after losing to the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday, chose to back off last night.

"You examine it as a coach, and it wasn't as bad as it was made out to be," Cassidy said. "We just weren't scoring enough to cover up a few loose defensive plays."

Washington came into this game having lost five of its previous seven games. The team that did that, letting a five-point lead in the Southeast Division dwindle to one, proved last night it wasn't lack of ability that cost it, but a dereliction of duty.

"It is frustrating," said Caps goalie Olie Kolzig, who made 25 saves, allowing only a goal by Jan Bulis. "We see how we can play when we're committed in our own end and we see what we can generate in the offensive zone when we play defense.

"There are so many more turnovers and we transition right back up the ice. Like tonight, Zubie [Dainius Zubrus] down the wing to [Robert] Lang, who bangs it off the post and Jags puts it in the empty net and Bonzai [Bondra] down the wing and buries it.

"We just have to keep it in our heads. I don't know if that means we have to remind each other every day that that's how we have to play. But tonight's another proof that when we play like that we can be successful."

Last night's victory increased Washington's Southeast Division lead to three points over the Lightning as the Caps await Buffalo here tomorrow night.

"I'm not a big fan of team meetings," said Cassidy, whose team held a players-only meeting after losing, 5-1, to Detroit on Saturday night and then met with the coach on their day off Sunday.

"Sometimes, you have meetings and everyone talks and that's it," he said. "I'm glad they took it on the ice. But this was just one day. ... We're going to find out if they can do it consistently. I think they can."

Montreal 0 0 1 - 1

Washington 1 1 2 - 4

First period - 1, Washington, Ciernik 6 (Nylander, Bondra), 9:08. Penalties - Dwyer, Mon, major (fighting), 2:19; Peat, Was, major (fighting), 2:19; Witt, Was, (tripping), 11:47; Komisarek, Mon (holding), 15:26; Halpern, Was (tripping), 18:23.

Second period - 2, Washington, Jagr 33 (Zubrus, Lang), 2:22. Penalty-Petrov, Mon (goalie interference), 10:33.

Third period - 3, Washington, Bondra 23 (Ciernik, Johansson), 2:41. 4, Montreal, Bulis 14 (Sundstrom, Juneau), 12:51. 5, Washington, Konowalchuk 13 (Grier, Halpern), 14:58. Penalty-Zednik, Mon (boarding), 8:24.

Shots on goal - Montreal 7-12-7-26. Washington 7-8-3-18. Power-play opportunities - Montreal 0 of 2; Washington 0 of 3. Goalies - Montreal, Theodore 15-24-5 (18 shots-14 saves). Washington, Kolzig 24-20-5 (26-25). A - 14,945 (18,277). T - 2:16.

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