Caps' Kolzig Delivers In Must-Have Game

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 17, 2008

TAMPA, Feb. 16 -- During Olie Kolzig's slump last month, his slipping statistics might have led one to conclude that, at age 37, the lifelong Washington Capital was no longer an elite goaltender.

Performances like Saturday night's, though, suggest that any such conclusion was likely premature.

Kolzig kept his team in contention with 39 saves, then Alexander Semin scored with three minutes remaining to help the Capitals avoid a potentially embarrassing collapse and escape St. Pete Times Forum with an exhilarating 3-2 victory over the surging Tampa Bay Lightning.

Tomas Fleischmann and David Steckel also scored for the Capitals, who return to Washington with a 1-1-1 record on their three-game Southeast Division road trip.

"I think we could have gotten more," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "But anytime you can go on the road, play three games in four nights, in games that all meant something to the other team, and come up .500, that's not bad."

The Capitals almost let Saturday's game slip away, however.

Vinny Prospal and Jan Hlavac scored 33 seconds apart in the final minutes of the third period to rally the Lightning from a 2-0 deficit. But 48 seconds after Hlavac's goal, Semin crashed the net and poked a rebound of Victor Kozlov's shot past Johan Holmqvist (32 saves) to restore Washington's lead.

"As I always say, 'Don't leave our games early,' " cracked Kolzig, who improved to 3-1-1 this month. "You kind of become immune to it."

Alex Ovechkin, meantime, was held without a point in consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 5-6. He took five shots in 21 minutes 52 seconds of ice time.

Last night, Ovechkin didn't need to carry the Capitals. That job belonged to Kolzig, who stopped all 24 shots he faced in the second period.

"He was very good," Boudreau said. "We got the 2-0 lead and you know what your head starts thinking. I didn't want to say the word [shutout]. Then they got the two goals back right away, but we were resilient.

"It was a great two points."

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company