Washington Capitals Defeat Tampa Bay Lightning in NHL Hockey

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A near capacity crowd stood and cheered as a video tribute to Olie Kolzig played above center ice. The object of their adulation, though, was in no mood to toast his time in Washington.

Kolzig, making his first appearance at Verizon Center since signing as a free agent with the Tampa Bay Lightning in the offseason, had already yielded two goals on Washington's first two shots, and the Capitals were well on their way to a 4-2 victory that spoiled his homecoming.

"I had other things to think about than a tribute," Kolzig said. "Obviously, it's real nice, what they did. But I wish I could have paid more attention to it."

Tom Poti, Mike Green, Eric Fehr and Alex Ovechkin scored and goaltender Brent Johnson was solid again, making 34 stops, to help the Capitals win their third in a row and improve to 6-0-1 at home. Gary Roberts notched two power-play goals for the Lightning, including one with 26 seconds remaining.

Was it "my first goal in the NHL?" Ovechkin said, playing down the significance of snapping a nine-game goal drought, the longest of career. "Goal is a goal. I'm happy I score, but I'm more happy we win the game."

Eleven Capitals factored into the scoring, but, as Coach Bruce Boudreau conceded, it was far from a perfect performance. Two days after an impressive 3-1 win over the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers, the Capitals reverted to the pass-first, shoot-second mentality that has drawn Boudreau's ire and cost them points. Johnson was also left to bail out his teammates as they relaxed in the second period and were outshot, 18-6.

"We weren't very good" after the first period, Boudreau said. "In the second period, Alexander Semin might be leading the league in scoring, but he's got the puck between the hashmarks and [passes] to [Nicklas] Backstrom. He's got as good a shot as there is in hockey. Use it. [Semin] and [Ovechkin] were way too cute tonight."

As for Kolzig, Johnson's good friend and the Capitals' all-time leader in wins with 301, things couldn't have gone any worse. Playing behind a porous defense, Kolzig (26 saves) yielded three goals on the first seven shots by a team he wanted nothing more than to defeat, the franchise for which he started the previous 10 years, the team that unceremoniously replaced him late last season as his dominant performances became fewer and further between.

"I'm not going to lie and say I wasn't nervous," Kolzig said. "But that really didn't have anything to do with spotting them three goals. It was a bad start."

During warm-ups, dozens of fans, many wearing Kolzig jerseys spanning all the years of his tenure, gathered around the glass. Some held up signs, some snapped pictures, all cheered during introductions. Those cheers, however, did not compare to the ones that followed each of the Capitals' goals.

At 8:20 of the first period, Donald Brashear zipped a beautiful cross-ice pass to a pinching Poti, who snapped a wrist shot past Kolzig's blocker to put the Capitals ahead 1-0. It was Poti's second goal in two games.

Ninety-five seconds later, Ovechkin skated the puck deep into the Lightning zone and dished the puck back to Green, who rifled a shot past Kolzig for his fifth goal of the season, first in three weeks and first at even strength. It was just the Capitals' second shot.

Moments later, Kolzig was honored with a 1 1/2 -minute tribute that brought the fans out of their seats during a timeout. Kolzig took a few quick glances at the board and hardly acknowledged the crowd as he skated back to the crease.

Fehr made it 3-0 with his first goal of the season at 16:24 of the first, firing a one-timer past Kolzig. Then, late in the third period, Ovechkin redirected a pass from Semin for the fourth goal.

"You never want to diss a win," Boudreau said. "So it was a good win. We must have done some good stuff. But it was frustrating because the Rangers game was so good and we played so well -- everybody -- for 60 minutes. We're going to have to play like that if we want to succeed."

Capitals Notes: The team's six-game winning streak against the Lightning is the longest in the series' history. . . . Defenseman Shaone Morrisonn (groin muscle pull) was sidelined, as were center Sergei Fedorov and right wing Viktor Kozlov, both out with undisclosed ailments. Lightning winger Ryan Malone left with a lower body injury in the first period and did not return. . . . Kolzig is one of four former Capitals on Tampa Bay's roster. The others are defenseman Steve Eminger, center Jeff Halpern and left wing Matt Pettinger.

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