Capitals Put It All Together
Friday, December 1, 2006
The Washington Capitals played about as well in the first period last night against the Dallas Stars as they have all season, opening a two-goal lead without taking a single penalty.
What followed was equally encouraging for the young team: Despite some frantic final moments, Olie Kolzig and Co. held on for a 4-3 victory at Verizon Center and spoiled Jeff Halpern's homecoming before an announced crowd of 10,912.
Kolzig, who had 35 saves and got his first career win over the Stars, was at his best when the Capitals needed him most. Dallas got goals from Stu Barnes and Jussi Jokinen 78 seconds apart in the game's final minutes, then pulled goalie Marty Turco for an extra skater.
Thanks to Kolzig, that's as close as the Stars would come.
"We gave them a little bit of an opening," Kolzig said. "And suddenly they came back to life and started throwing everything at the net. But the bottom line is we won."
The Capitals' triumph, however, was tempered by a gruesome injury suffered by defenseman Jamie Heward, who is out indefinitely after Mike Modano's skate slashed his face with 4 minutes 43 seconds left to play.
Modano was pinned along the end boards by Washington's Mike Green when he lifted his leg as he attempted to spin loose. His skate blade caught an approaching Heward on the nose and cheek, opening a bloody gash.
Richard Zednik, Chris Clark, Matt Pettinger and Alexander Semin scored for the Capitals, who won their second straight game by making the most of their 23 shots on goal. Stars rookie Mike Smith was replaced in net by Turco at the start of the third period.
Jokinen had two goals for Dallas, which lost its third straight and second in two nights.
Much of the pregame chatter was about Halpern, whose first game in Washington since leaving as a free agent in July turned out to be uneventful. The Potomac native, who captained the Capitals last season, finished with one shot on goal and a plus-minus rating of minus-1 in 13:24 of ice time.
"Unfortunately for our team and myself personally, it wasn't something that I'm going to look back on with great memories," a sullen Halpern said. "They did a pretty good job of getting in our face, getting pucks in deep and getting on us. We didn't have a great response until it was too late. "
Halpern played six seasons in Washington and was named captain before the start of last season. But the Stars lured him away with a four-year, $8 million contract, which was two years and several million dollars more than the Capitals were willing to offer.
Halpern was assessed the first penalty of the game (a roughing minor) and when the announcement was made, a smattering of fans booed.
"My first shift was good, but after that it was running around in quicksand the rest of the night," Halpern added. "It was probably one of the worst games I've played in my career. That part of it is a little hard to swallow."
Zednik gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead at 13:05 of the first period. From the slot, the shifty right wing fired a pass from Brooks Laich past Smith, who yielded four goals on 14 shots.
Clark extended the lead to 2-0 on the power play just 1:48 later, capitalizing on a misstep by Jere Lehtinen, who tripped over the net and coughed up the puck.
Jokinen's first goal came 41 seconds into the second period when he converted a 3-on-1 to trim the Capitals' edge to 2-1.
Washington responded by remaining poised -- something it has often failed to do.
Midway through the period, Alex Ovechkin was awarded a penalty shot when Smith lost his stick in an attempt to poke check the Russian star on a breakaway. But Ovechkin lost control of the puck and failed to get off a shot, making him 0 for 2 this season and scoreless in three career penalty shots. Including the shootout, Ovechkin is 0 for 6 in penalty-shot situations this season.
Asked what happened, Ovechkin looked at both of his hands and joked, "I don't know what happened [to] my hands."
Despite the letdown, the Capitals continued to hold their own and were rewarded for their hard work at 17:53, when Pettinger netted his sixth goal thanks to another Dallas miscue. Stars defenseman Sergei Zubov tripped as his pivoted at the blueline, springing Pettinger on a breakaway.
Semin's power-play slap shot rang off the goal post and in with 11.8 seconds remaining in the second to push the lead to 4-1.
It almost wasn't enough. Barnes tallied with 3:21 left and Jokinen with 2:03 remaining to make it 4-3. Kolzig, however, stood his ground.
Capitals Note: Center Dainius Zubrus was a late scratch with flu-like symptoms.