A little good news...
Caps Get Unlikely Victory In Tampa
Lightning Handed First Loss of Season : Capitals 5, Lightning 1
By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 5, 2003; Page D01
TAMPA, Nov. 4 -- There was every reason to believe a blowout was imminent at St. Pete Times Forum on Tuesday night, although few would have predicted the victor. The Washington Capitals, who came in with the NHL's worst record, thumped the Tampa Bay Lightning, the last NHL team without a loss, by a 5-1 margin.
Washington (3-8-1) entered this contest with an 0-6-1 road record, including six straight defeats. They had failed to score more than two goals in nine straight games, tying a franchise record, and had the second worst goals against average in the league, yet led Tampa Bay 5-0 by the second intermission. All of Washington's slumping stars made an impact in the game and provided a reason for optimism missing from the first month of the season.
"I think everybody chipped in," winger Dainius Zubrus (two goals) said. "Obviously, [goaltender Olaf Kolzig] played very well, but overall, everybody contributed. Thankfully, we're back on the winning track."
The only thing atypical about Washington's first period, however, was the score. Tampa Bay, which rallied from a two-game deficit to defeat the Capitals in the first round of the 2003 playoffs, led 18-7 in shots on goal in the first period and produced at least twice as many scoring chances. But they already trailed 2-0 after 20 minutes.
The Capitals killed off three power plays in the opening period, which played no small part in their lead, and Kolzig (41 saves) provided further proof that his early-season woes appear to be behind him. And for the first time in weeks Washington's forwards displayed an opportunistic touch.
"We needed it, we really did," Coach Bruce Cassidy said of his team's six-for-six performance on penalty kills. "Your special teams have got to win those battles on the road. Our power play has been chipping in with goals on a regular basis, but the penalty killers have been struggling. This will be good for everyone's morale."
Zubrus scored the first goal about 11 minutes in, netting his club's first short-handed tally of the season. Zubrus beat goalie Nikolai Khabibulin unassisted, racing to the crease and stuffing the puck into the net. The Capitals scored the opening goal in a road game for just the second time this season.
Washington struck again with less than two minutes remaining in the period, when the "$20 million line" of Peter Bondra, Robert Lang (three points) and Jaromir Jagr clicked in its first game together. Lang won a faceoff back to defenseman Sergei Gonchar (three points), and then headed to the top of the crease along with Bondra. Tampa defenseman Cory Sarich was outnumbered and Lang redirected the puck for his team-leading fifth goal of the season.
That goal gave the Capitals their first two-goal lead since opening night -- a span of nine games and nearly four weeks -- and their first two-goal lead of the season on the road. It also marked the first time this season Washington had scored two goals in the same period of a road game.
Said Kolzig: "It makes the job a lot easier on the goalie and the defense when you have a two-goal lead after one period. The guys here know how to play defense, and it makes it easier when you have a lead, no question."
The Capitals were granted their first power plays of the game early in the second period, and used the man advantage prudently. Lang's pass to the crease was flicked on by rookie Alexander Semin, 19, and trickled to the right side. Jagr, who had only one point in his past nine games, leapt forward to meet the puck and chipped it gingerly ahead from a tight angle; Khabibulin misjudged the shot, then vented his frustration by taking a slashing penalty.
Jeff Halpern coolly converted a breakaway two minutes later with the teams playing four-on-four, scoring for the first time in 10 games. Khabibulin, named the NHL's defensive player of the month for October, had surrendered four goals on 11 shots and was yanked from the game.
Backup goalie John Grahame gave up the fifth goal late in the second period, again on a power play. Semin deflected Gonchar's blast and Zubrus knocked the rebound in for his fourth goal of the season.
© 2003 The Washington Post Company