Caps Open Homestand With a Win

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 10, 2008

When David Steckel scored the Washington Capitals' second goal last night, some of his teammates relaxed.

It's a good thing Olie Kolzig wasn't one of them. The veteran goaltender needed to be brilliant in the final minute to help the Capitals open a critical stretch with an inelegant 2-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche at Verizon Center.

Kolzig stopped 18 shots, and his most important saves were the two he made on Tyler Arnason, as Colorado pressed for the equalizer with goaltender Jose Theodore on the bench and six Avalanche attackers buzzing around the Capitals' net as the clock wound down.

But Kolzig kicked out his left pad at the last possible moment on Arnason's first attempt, then flashed his glove a few seconds later on the second to preserve the win, Washington's fourth in five games.

"The bottom line is we got the job done, and everybody contributed," Kolzig said. "Pretty is what burned us in the past. We've got a handful of talented guys. But like [Coach Bruce Boudreau] says, we're a meat and potatoes kind of team."

Indeed, it was the grinders who carried the Capitals' offense last night.

After a scoreless first 40 minutes, enforcer Donald Brashear put the Capitals ahead 1-0 at 2 minutes 51 seconds of the third period, when he inadvertently redirected a shot by fourth-line center Brooks Laich past Theodore (21 saves).

Steckel, another checker, extended Washington's lead to 2-0 with 3:59 left to play, when his backhanded centering pass hit a Colorado defenseman and sneaked over the goal line.

That's when the Capitals' bench breathed a sign of relief.

Colorado's Marek Svatos struck 38 seconds after Steckel's goal, as he beat Kolzig over the left shoulder to cut the Capitals' edge to 2-1 and put the announced crowd of 16,168 on the edge of their seats.

That's when Kolzig, who has earned 15 of the Capitals' 18 wins, took over.

"Olie was on top of his game," Boudreau said. "Two of the last three games he's made some great saves. In the Boston game he was great and in this game he was great. That's good stuff."

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