Kolzig rises to occasion, saving 2-2 tie for Capitals

Goalie snuffs power play in overtime against Leafs

Hockey

December 20, 2003|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - Overtime was winding down and the Toronto Maple Leafs were on the power play, charging toward Washington Capitals goalie Olie Kolzig.

Kolzig, who has felt the strain of the Capitals' losing record and sat out two games partly because of it and partly due to a slight groin injury, had made some easy saves look difficult last night and some hard ones look easy.

But now, the game was on the line and the goalie, feeling the pain of the worst season in his career, was looking Joe Nieuwendyk square in the eyes.

Nieuwendyk arrived. The puck arrived. The horn went off. When the tangle of bodies in the crease were separated, Kolzig had come up with the save to maintain the 2-2 tie against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the hottest team in the NHL.

"Olie is hard on himself, but he is the backbone of the team and we have confidence in him," said Caps forward Mike Grier, who had a chance to win the game in overtime.

"Tonight, he made two huge saves - on Darcy Tucker late in the second period and at the end on Nieuwendyk. We all just hope that will give him a little confidence."

Kolzig ended up with 32 saves.

If the Capitals were interested in measuring how far they've come in the last eight days under new coach Glen Hanlon, they couldn't have scheduled a better opponent.

At MCI Center, they were up against the talent-rich Leafs, who have registered points in a franchise-record 13 straight games, including seven straight road victories before last night.

And the Caps played one of their best games of any season.

They matched the Leafs' effort that produced even-strength goals by Alexei Ponikarovsky and Mats Sundin, and maybe surpassed it, as they came from behind twice to secure the tie on power-play goals by Kip Miller and Dainius Zubrus.

Robert Lang, who continues to lead the NHL in points with 42, had two assists.

The outcome improved Washington's record under Hanlon to 2-1-2, and its overall record to 10-19-3-1. The Caps will play the second of five straight home games tomorrow at 6 p.m. against the New York Islanders.

Hanlon said he was pleased with his team on several levels.

"We played hard and our execution is getting better every game," he said. "We're maintaining our energy level and I don't think there is any limit on what this club can do."

The Caps were playing without Jaromir Jagr, their second-leading scorer, who is expected to be sidelined into next week with a thumb injury that required the removal of his thumbnail and left him with 15 stitches.

Toronto 1 1 0 0 - 2

Washington 0 2 0 0 - 0

First period - 1, Toronto, Ponikarovsky 2 (Antropov, Nieuwendyk), 12:11. Penalties - Nieuwendyk, Tor (interference), 5:27; Zubrus, Was (hooking), 6:09. Second period - 2, Washington, Miller 4 (Lang, Gonchar), 5:59 (pp). 3, Toronto, Sundin 13 (Roberts, Marchment), 6:13. 4, Washington, Zubrus 11 (Miller, Lang), 11:46 (pp). Penalties - Fitzgerald, Tor (holding), 1:05; Klee, Tor (tripping), 5:33; Reichel, Tor (Ob.-hooking), 8:28; McCabe, Tor (tripping), 10:43; Antropov, Tor (roughing), 16:36; Berry, Was (roughing), 16:36. Third period - None. Penalties - Jackman, Tor (cross-checking), 6:29; Roberts, Tor (holding), 19:15. Overtime-None. Penalty-Gordon, Was (tripping), 3:56. Shots on goal - Toronto 12-10-11-1-34. Washington 5-12-8-2-27. Power-play opportunities - Toronto 0 of 2; Washington 2 of 7. Goalies - Toronto, Kidd 1-0-1 (27 shots-25 saves). Washington, Kolzig 8-18-1 (34-32). A - 13,673 (18,277). T-2:36.

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