Caps back on top alone after blanking 'Canes

Kolzig gets 3rd shutout

team leads Lightning by 2 points after 2-0 win


March 03, 2003|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- When Dainius Zubrus scored the Washington Capitals' second goal last night, he threw his arms in the air and kissed the top of Peter Bondra's helmet in jubilation.

The goal represented a little breathing room for a team that had seen a one-goal lead turn into an overtime loss a night earlier, and the Capitals were determined not to let that happen again.

They shut out the Carolina Hurricanes, 2-0, at MCI Center.

"I was just so happy," Zubrus said. "This game was a little reminiscent of 24 hours ago, and that was tough yesterday, to see that lead lost. Tonight, we stuck to the game plan, the same game plan, and we [won]. It makes you glad when everyone is playing together on the same page and something good happens."

Capitals goalie Olie Kolzig, who was within 33 seconds of a shutout in New Jersey, made 21 saves and put away his third shutout of the season and the 30th of his career.

It was a big game and a big win. The Capitals, tied with Tampa Bay for the lead in the Southeast Division coming into this game, moved two points ahead of the Lightning with just 15 games left in the regular season. They play in Buffalo tomorrow night.

With five minutes to go in the second period, the Capitals were outshooting the Hurricanes 20-10 and had a 1-0 lead. Jason Doig had seen to that with a first-period goal. The Caps defenseman, who had gone eight years between scoring his first and second NHL goals, scored his third with just a seven-week gap and beat Carolina goalie Kevin Weekes with a blazing slap shot.

But the Caps were also 0-for-5 on the power play -- and in a 1-for-30 slump at that point. And they had missed ample opportunities to broaden their lead.

Dismal, it might be called. Or scary, if you're a Cap or a Caps' fan.

But Capitals coach Bruce Cassidy saw mostly positives last night. He noted his team couldn't put the game away in New Jersey, but added, "There is no panic mode here. It was less than 24 hours ago, and we came out, stuck to our game plan and put this one away."

He saw the Michael Nylander line with Bondra and Zubrus score. He saw his first line, with Jaromir Jagr, Robert Lang and Kip Miller create numerous chances and he saw his checking line, with Jeff Halpern and Steve Konowalchuk, set up the play on which Doig scored. All positive signs that the offense, which has scored more than two goals just twice in the past nine games, is getting stronger.

"Saturday night, we didn't come with our work boots like we should've," Kolzig said. "Tonight we did. We were committed. We stuck to the game plan and they really didn't have any quality chances or odd-man rushes.

"It was starting to mirror last night ... then Zubie got the insurance goal and that was huge. It took a lot of pressure off."

Since committing to a defense-first game plan after being soundly beaten in back-to-back games by Toronto and Detroit on Feb. 20 and 22, the Caps have gone 3-0-0-1, while giving up just five goals.

"It's defensive, playoff hockey," Kolzig said. "If we're going to win, this is the way we have to play."

Carolina 0 0 0 -- 0

Washington 1 0 1 -- 2

First period -- 1, Washington, Doig 2 (Konowalchuk, Halpern), 5:23. Penalties -- Francis, Car (hooking), 2:13; Jagr, Was (roughing), 9:48; Francis, Car (ob.-hooking), 10:54; Hedican, Car (cross-checking), 14:44; Hill, Car (high-sticking), 16:33; Konowalchuk, Was (elbowing), 19:19. Second period -- None. Penalties -- Klee, Was (tripping), 6:58; St. Jacques, Car (holding), 9:35; Wesley, Car (hooking), 18:34. Third period -- 2, Washington, Zubrus 10 (Bondra, Nylander), 8:22. Penalties -- None. Shots on goal -- Carolina 6-6-9--21. Washington 12-12-5--29. Power-play opportunities -- Carolina 0 of 3; Washington 0 of 6. Goalies -- Carolina, Weekes 11-20-7 (29 shots-27 saves). Washington, Kolzig 26-21-5 (21-21). A -- 16,198 (18,277). T -- 2:14.

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