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  Capitals Are Keeping Faith in Kolzig
By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 10, 1998; Page C9


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DETROIT, June 9 — In scarcely two minutes, two great plays by the Detroit Red Wings allowed them to capture Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals.

But in the Capitals' locker room after their 2-1 loss, as players started to regroup for Thursday's Game 2 at Joe Louis Arena, there was nothing but support for Capitals goaltender Olaf Kolzig, who barely had a chance at stopping the goals — both coming at blistering speed in the first period.

"Olie never lost his focus," said Capitals team captain Dale Hunter. "We rely on him to make big saves for us, and he did it again. There's nothing new there."

Kolzig gave up two even-strength goals in a two minute 14 second span in the first period.

At 14:04 into the period Red Wings forward Joe Kocur redirected a hard shot by Doug Brown, and the puck scooted past Kolzig's left side. Kocur skated with glee to the Red Wings bench, where he was patted on the helmet. He had sat out four of the six games in the Red Wings' series against Dallas.

Kolzig was on his defensive haunches again seconds later, with Red Wings swarming behind and on either side of the goal. Winger Tomas Holmstrom kicked the puck out to defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, who wound up and smacked it about knee-height for his sixth goal of the playoffs.

For the balance of the game, Kolzig turned back everything smacked his way, blocking shots with his shoulder and sprawling across the ice to finish with 29 saves on the night.

Capitals General Manager George McPhee said afterward he thought Detroit might have been in the crease on the first goal, but Lidstrom's, he said, "was a perfect shot."

"It was two real good plays by them," McPhee said. "Those types of goals aren't the goaltender's fault. [Olie] was strong the rest of the game."

Detroit's goaltender Chris Osgood wasn't challenged nearly as much by the Capitals, who struggled to mount a consistent offensive threat. Still, Osgood drew rowdy cheers from the crowd of 19,983 as he blocked 16 of the Capitals' 17 shots- all except rookie Richard Zednik's, which slipped in 15:57 into the second period. It was Zednik's seventh goal of the playoffs.

Before the game even started a Detroit fan's sign captured the simplicity of the Red Wings' game plan: "Zap Zilla."

It underscored the pervading analysis of this matchup: That for Washington to have a chance in the series, Kolzig must play a near-flawless game.

Washington started strong and pressured the Red Wings through the game's first 10 minutes. But their poise took a hit after Kocur's goals.

"As soon as really when they got the first goal, we started panicking," said Joe Juneau. "Breakouts are awful, and we start giving the puck away."

As the game progressed, the Red Wing capitalized on Washington turnovers and muffled the Capitals' offense, holding them to just six shots in the first period and four in the second.

It wasn't so much Detroit's shot-making that tilted the balance; Washington has been outshot throughout the playoffs, but advanced through shrewd shot selection. The Red Wings simply clogged up the area in front of Kolzig, looming larger and more composed than the Capitals.

His team trailing 2-1, Kolzig was at his best in the third period, stopping all 12 shots, including a wide-open effort by Slava Kozlov on a feed from Sergei Fedorov with about 8 minutes to go. He blocked another Kozlov shot with less than three minutes remaining, using his right shoulder. The puck flew up and dropped under his leg.

Kolzig was pulled with 1:15 remaining and watched the rest of the game from the bench, his mask propped up, unable to do anything.

"This is a test of our character," Kolzig said later. "It was a close game. It came down to the end."

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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