|ReCap: Capitals @ Avalanche by: Mike Smuland March 19, 2002|
|The Washington Capitals put together perhaps their most complete sixty minutes of hockey this season en route to a 3-0 victory over the Colorado Avalanche. Olaf Kolzig was solid in net, earning his fifth shutout of the season and Capitals record 26th of his career on the same day the Caps traded for his projected future replacement, Maxime Ouellet.
The Caps top line didn't miss a beat with Adam Oates departing for Philadelphia today; the tandem of Glen Metropolit - Dainius Zubrus - Jaromir Jagr set a feverish tone over the first couple periods of play, generating repeated quality chances directly in front of the net. While failing to convert for a goal, the top unit managed to raise the level of play and the Avalanche were never able to match.
Jaromir Jagr seemed to enjoy having the playmaking duties to himself, circling through the offensive zone and sending beautiful passes in each direction. Glen Metropolit continued to cycle the puck beautifully, emulating some of Jagr's outstanding moves with those from his own bag of tricks. Dainius Zubrus continued to drive toward the net (something the Caps had lacked this season).
Eight minutes into tonight's contest, Fran Kucera was shutdown by Roy while pinching into the slot. Three minutes later Zubrus and Gonchar were both robbed on great chances from in close by Patrick Roy, whose heroics kept the score knotted at zero at the end of one period.
Steve Konowalchuk's hard work down low earned the Capitals their first power play opportunity four minutes into the second and Washington converted after sending at least five quality shots at Roy. The Caps set-up on the right side pivot with Jagr leading the play (versus the previous left side standard with Oates playing pivot). Jagr sent a feed to Zubrus, who patiently held the puck before sliding a perfect pass across the crease to Bondra; Bondra one-timed a rising shot over Roy's shoulder for a 1-0 lead and his 34th of the season.
The teams traded power play opportunities - the Avalanche earning their chance on a clear dive by Rob Blake - that failed to click. Patrick Roy continued to stand on his head, turning aside multiple quality chances and the second ended with Washington clinging to a slim 1-0 advantage.
Washington created some distance 6:21 into the third after Andrei Nikolishin found his spark off a Colorado turnover. The Avs lost control of the puck in Washington's zone, where Niko took over with a rush up the right side. Nikolishin sent the puck across the slot to Peter Bondra for a quick shot; the rebound came right back to Niko's stick for an easy put-away and his 11th of the season.
Mid-way through the final period, Ulf Dahlen was called for Holding the Stick, but the real crime was the bizarre call that followed. Peter Bondra was free at center ice and sprung by a perfect pass...or so the Caps thought. Bondra's shorthanded breakaway was immediately called off due to a two-line pass. Bondra circled and threw up his hands in disbelief. The ensuing face-off took place at center ice (not the supposed spot of the foul behind the Washington blue line) making the call all the more curious.
Washington continued to shut down the Avalanche power play using patience, persistence and poke-checks - inspiring the otherwise silent Pepsi Center crowd to boo and whistle the home team's effort.
With two minutes to play, Colorado finally seemed to emerge from its slumber with multiple flurries in front of Kolzig. For a thirty second period, Colorado had both a PP advantage as well as an extra skater in place of Patrick Roy, who was pulled with two minutes to play.
Kolzig continued to turn chances aside and the only goal scored late in the third came on an empty netter by Sergei Gonchar at 18:57 (pushing his career best to 23) for a definitive 3-0 win.
+ Kolzig earned his shutout by overcoming his biggest problem this season - controlling rebounds.
+ Washington's defense kept Colorado away from the net until the last two minutes of the game. The majority of the Avs' chances came from far out and with little or no traffic in front of Kolzig.
- Dmitri Khristich left the game in the second period after taking a nasty hit from behind and going face first into the boards. He left under his own power, but was clearly shaken.
- Ulf Dahlen is now without a point in eight straight games.
- The Capitals sorely missed Adam Oates on face-offs
Darius Kasparitis was in Pepsi Center to watch his new team play and join in the booth, but did not arrive in time to suit up for the Avs...CalleJo joined the team on the trip; he watched from the bench and skated with the team - sans hockey gear - before the game...J.F. Fortin returned to the line-up in place of Sylvain Cote.
In continuing referee follies news: following the end of a Caps PP in the third last night, Adam Foote wound up and punched Metropolit in the back of the head. Foote appeared to be ready for his skate to the sin bin, only there was no call. The ref standing right there was apparently inspecting the glass for smudges.