Capitals Can't Get a Holiday Break in Overtime

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 23, 2007

UNIONDALE, N.Y., Dec. 22 -- For the first 57 minutes, the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders didn't generate much excitement at Nassau Coliseum, much less any suspense.

But the teams more than made up for it in the final moments of regulation and overtime.

After they traded goals 71 seconds apart as the clock wound down, Islanders wing Richard Park beat Olie Kolzig with a sharp-angle wrist shot with 1 minute 17 seconds remaining in the extra session to send the Capitals into the holiday break with a 3-2 loss, their third in a row (0-1-2).

Park scored after Washington defenseman Mike Green got clipped on the right ear with his teammate's stick behind the net. Green slumped to the ice bleeding, leaving the Capitals, in effect, down one player as Park took a pass deep in the face-off circle and fired the puck past Kolzig.

Green sat alone in the Capitals' locker room for several minutes, still wearing his sweat-soaked pads, trying to process what had just happened.

"I don't know, it's kind of hard to go down like that and them score, it's not a good feeling," Green said. "We really needed this win tonight going into Christmas."

Interim coach Bruce Boudreau said: "It was Jeff Schultz's stick that caught him in the ear. So [that's] why Park was so wide open. We never touched the puck and unless they deem it a life-threatening thing, [the referees] are not going to blow [play] dead right away."

Park's tally capped a contest that started out slowly but finished with a flurry.

The thrills began when Islanders captain Bill Guerin scored off a rebound with 2:06 remaining in regulation to put New York ahead, 2-1. Game over, right? Not so fast.

Kolzig went to the bench with about a minute left to play in favor of a sixth attacker. But he wasn't there for long.

Alex Ovechkin, who had been relatively quiet until the final minutes, corralled a drop pass from Viktor Kozlov near the sideboards in the Islanders' zone. Ovechkin immediately unleashed a wrist shot through traffic and past Rick DiPietro, evening the score at 2-2 and stunning the crowd of 14,305.

Despite the disappointment of the loss, Matt Pettinger chose to look at the bright side, saying the Capitals were fortunate to earn a point on a night in which they had been outplayed, outshot and outhustled. The Islanders finished with 31-16 edge in shots on goal.

"We didn't generate a whole, whole lot obviously, judging by the shot total there," Pettinger said. "We fought back. You look at the positive, we got a point out of it. It easily could have been nothing tonight."

That's exactly the direction things appeared to be headed early for Washington.

After 30 minutes of disjointed -- and occasionally uninterested -- play, Islanders winger Miroslav Satan broke a scoreless tie at 10:03 of the second period.

The play began in the Islanders' zone with Capitals defenseman John Erskine's shot getting blocked. New York's Josef Vasicek sent a 20-foot pass up the middle to Satan, who outskated Schultz, then deked Kolzig before flipping the puck into the net.

Over the next six minutes, Kolzig made sure the Islanders didn't get a second goal. It bought Alexander Semin and his teammates enough time to get a goal of their own.

Semin tied the score 1-1 at 17:52 with spinning wrist shot that kissed the crossbar before settling behind DiPietro. Semin gathered a loose puck in front after Kozlov had whiffed on a shot, sidestepped a defender, then in one motion, turned and fired.

The action didn't heat up again until the final minutes of regulation.

"For the first time in the 15 games since I've been here, we couldn't generate too much offense," Boudreau said. "That was the lowest shot total we've had. I don't know if it's the way they were playing or the way we were playing. But either way it's frustrating."

Capitals Notes: Right wing Chris Clark (strained groin muscle), center Boyd Gordon (broken right hand) and defenseman (Brian Pothier, broken thumb) were out. Clark and Gordon each missed their 11th consecutive game; Pothier missed his first. Defenseman Steve Eminger was the lone healthy scratch. . . .

The Capitals will get the next three days off from any team-related activities before returning to the ice Wednesday to face Tampa Bay at home. . . . Islanders defensemen Bryan Berard and Marc-Andre Bergeron were healthy scratches.

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