By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 1, 2007
TAMPA, March 31 -- Moments after Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Dan Boyle scored a pivotal power-play goal Saturday night at St. Pete Times Forum, Washington Capitals goaltender Olie Kolzig hopped to his skates and angrily whacked his stick against the post.
When the second period ended a few minutes later, Kolzig, known for his fiery temper, kicked the puck the length of the ice as players skated to their respective locker rooms. The veteran was furious about the circumstances that led to Boyle's tally, which proved to be the game-winner in the Lightning's 5-2 victory over the struggling Capitals.
Boyle, who flipped the puck over Kolzig as he was sprawled, scored while left wing Alexander Semin sat in the penalty box for inexplicably picking up -- and throwing -- the puck from near the blueline into the corner after being knocked to the ice. Officially called "closing hand on puck," it was easily the strangest infraction called on a Washington player this season. Capitals Coach Glen Hanlon responded by benching Semin, the team's second-leading scorer, for the entire third period.
"It was a 2-1 hockey game and we were playing great," Kolzig said. "But whatever reason those types of penalties always come back to bite you in the butt. And it did. Until we eliminate those things we're not going to go anywhere as an organization, and we addressed that after the game."
Afterward the players met for about 15 minutes behind closed doors. Although no one would divulge exactly what was said, when the meeting ended, all-star left wing Alex Ovechkin emerged from the locker room and smashed his stick repeatedly against the wall and a trash can until it broke into four pieces, according to those who witnessed the episode. Ovechkin's iPod and headphones also were destroyed, crumpled in the hallway.
Ovechkin and Semin, who are close friends and who were linemates on Saturday, left without speaking to the media. Asked why he thought Ovechkin was so angry, Kolzig said: "I'm sure he's probably frustrated with what happened and in the meeting. And that's really all I'm going to say. It wasn't targeted at Ovie. He's obviously our guy. But it was something he didn't want to hear."
Boyle's pivotal goal was the 10th power-play score yielded by the Capitals over the past six games, all losses. The two-minute minor also gave Semin 90 penalty minutes this season, the third-highest total on the team, behind defenseman Shoane Morrisonn and Donald Brashear.
"We're a team that's taking a lot of bad penalties," Hanlon said. "We just can't afford to do those things. Good teams don't do these things. When we talk about executing something, we expect it to be done 100 percent of the time."
Johan Holmqvist, meantime, made 23 saves for the Lightning and Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Jason Ward also scored to help it win for the second straight night and, in the process, tighten its grip on an Eastern Conference playoff berth.
The Capitals' objective for the season's final week is much more modest. They are trying to match or surpass last season's point total of 70, a challenge became even more difficult after Saturday's defeat, the Capitals' sixth to Tampa Bay this season.
Lecavalier scored only 36 seconds into the game and the Lightning held a 2-1 lead after an intense and physical opening 20 minutes. The early goal gave Tampa Bay an early boost, but the Capitals eventually matched their energy and pulled even on a goal by Matt Pettinger, who banged in a pass from Chris Clark at 11:16.
Ryan Craig restored the Lightning's lead, 2-1, at 13:29, after he skated down the slot and fired a shot between Kolzig's pads.
Kolzig and the Capitals, however, managed to keep the Lightning at bay for much of the second period. That is, until Semin was whistled for throwing the puck.
"In the heat of battle things happen," Clark said. "He wanted to get the puck out of there. But you have to be smarter than that."