Caps rise to occasion vs. Devils in 2-2 tie

Missing Bonda, Zubrus, Washington rebounds after Wednesday's rout

January 02, 2004|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - The New Jersey Devils came to MCI Center last night with gaudy statistics. They had nine shutouts in 19 victories and had allowed a league-low 59 goals.

They were facing the Washington Capitals, a team that had managed just one goal in each of their past three games - all losses, including a humiliating rout in Buffalo on Wednesday.

But despite missing two of their top four goals scorers in Peter Bondra (groin) and Dainius Zubrus (ankle), the Capitals put up a superb battle to earn a 2-2 overtime tie with the 2003 Stanley Cup champion.

"You could figure the way we dominated them in New Jersey, allowing just nine shots, that we could do it again," said Devils goalie Martin Brodeur (25 saves), recalling the Dec. 4 shutout. "But [Olie] Kolzig almost always plays well against us. And today, again, he was the difference. Olie made great saves.

"But I was looking at them. Even without Bondra and Zubrus, their first line is as good as any in the league. Their second line has good, strong players and their third line was banging everybody and playing really hard. I don't know. I guess it's all about the system and how committed those guys want to be for 82 games on the schedule."

So far the Capitals have been consistent only in their inconsistency, compiling an overall record of 11-23-4-1. Under new coach Glen Hanlon, they went 2-1-2 in their first five games, then went 1-4 in their next five before last night, with the last loss a 7-1 debacle against the Sabres.

"When we do come to work, we're really a good team," said defenseman Joel Kwiatkowski, who scored the tying goal 4:01 into the third period. "We showed that tonight against one of the best teams in the league. We just have to start believing in that and in Glen's system, and realize if we play the body we're going to win games."

Besides producing two goals, the Capitals also played good defense. Its penalty killers nixed six of eight penalties, including two five-on-three chances that totaled more than two minutes. Only Devils Grant Marshall and Sergei Brylin scored.

The Capitals took the first-period lead with a goal by fan favorite Mike Grier, who had not scored in the 36 games since the season opener Oct. 9.

"We could have gone in the tank in this game after the way we played [Wednesday] night," Grier said. "I'd like to think it says a lot about our character. We'll see how things go this weekend."

The Capitals travel to Ottawa for the first of back-to-back games tomorrow night against the Senators and Sunday in Montreal.

New Jersey 0 2 0 0 - 2

Washington 1 0 1 0 - 2

First period - 1, Washington, Grier 2 (Battaglia), 13:02. Penalties - Witt, Was (high-sticking), 7:46; Berry, Was (high-sticking), 9:05; Berry, Was (cross-checking), 17:43; Brylin, NJ (unsportsmanlike conduct), 18:39. Second period - 2, New Jersey, Marshall 3 (Niedermayer, Gomez), 15:08 (pp). 3, New Jersey, Brylin 6 (Rafalski, Niedermayer), 19:49 (pp). Penalties - Gonchar, Was (cross-checking), 6:15; Doig, Was (tripping), 7:16; Sutherby, Was, double minor (high-sticking), 12:36; Stevens, NJ (roughing), 19:30; Doig, Was (roughing), 19:30; Halpern, Was (interference), 19:43. Third period - 4, Washington, Kwiatkowski 4 (Gonchar, Lang), 4:01 (pp). Penalties - Gomez, NJ (goaltender interference), 2:21. Shots on goal - New Jersey 15-12-6-3-36. Washington 8-4-14-1-27. Power-play opportunities - New Jersey 2 of 8; Washington 1 of 2. Goalies - New Jersey, Brodeur 18-8-8 (27 shots-25 saves). Washington, Kolzig 9-21-3 (36-34). A - 15,005 (18,277). T-2:26.

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