For two periods tonight the Washington Capitals were a different team--one that scored first, played with a lead and killed penalties. A few shifts into the third period, however, they reverted to form.
The Capitals blew a two-goal lead in the third period at America West Arena, but salvaged a 2-2 tie thanks to the work of goalie Olaf Kolzig. The wreckage mounted in a matter of minutes; the collapse was quick and clean. Kolzig was forced to make two big saves to start the third period--an omen of things to come--and the Capitals might have put the game away on the power play early in the period, but instead watched the Coyotes score a short-handed goal.
The Capitals (2-3-2) were sloppy breaking out of their zone, turned the puck over at the blue line and Kolzig had no chance as Jeremy Roenick finished a short-handed two-on-one just over four minutes into the period. It was Roenick's first game after a five-game suspension for slashing the Blackhawks' Tony Amonte on Oct. 8.
The Coyotes, off to their best start in franchise history, attacked the net in waves. Phoenix scored the tying goal on the power play, against the NHL's worst penalty-killing unit. Keith Tkachuk and Roenick tore down the ice on a two-on-one, and Roenick's pass clanked off back-checking defenseman Calle Johansson and into the net with about nine minutes to play.
Kolzig's heroics kept them alive. He made a pad save on Shane Doan's clean breakaway with seven minutes remaining. Washington defenseman Joe Reekie fell down, Phoenix had a three-on-one and Kolzig (33 saves) made successive game-saving stops on Rick Tocchet, while sprawled on his side with about three minutes left. Coach Ron Wilson used his timeout, trying to stop the onslaught and providing a brief respite for his top players.
In the end, Kolzig was the difference, as he was in the beginning. It took a spectacular save to prevent the Coyotes from scoring about three minutes into the game. The defense sagged, and Doan was left open in front. Kolzig barely got his glove on Doan's shot, the puck trickling into the stands.
Jamie Huscroft headed to the penalty box seconds later, and Washington still seemed in peril. The Capitals not only killed off the penalty, they popped in the opening goal. Peter Bondra swiped the puck from goalie Mikhail Shtalenkov, whipped around the net and stuffed the puck into the empty goal with 4 minutes 36 seconds gone in the first period. Bondra's six goals are tops on the team; his 23 short-handed goals are the most in franchise history. The Capitals had scored first after yielding early goals in their first six games.
"I forced [Shtalenkov] to make a play and end up getting the puck," Bondra said in a between-periods television interview. "Mentally, it's great for us to score first."
Chances began coming with more regularity after that. Center Adam Oates, still searching for his first goal of the season, found himself every bit as open as Doan was, but Shtalenkov made a low save. Sergei Gonchar fired wide on a one-timer on the power play, the puck shot back through the crease and Jan Bulis sent it off the far post. Richard Zednik was denied on the goal line by Shtalenkov's outstretched arm.
Thirty-three seconds into the second period, Oates threaded a pass to Chris Simon in the slot. Simon ripped a wrist shot into the top of the net for his second goal of the season, giving the Capitals a two-goal lead.
They managed to kill off three big power plays in the second period. Kolzig robbed Juha Ylonen on a two-on-one late in the period. Ylonen got another chance on the next shift, and passed to Trevor Letowski. Kolzig slid to his right and reached back with his glove hand, making the save.
The Capitals' lead after two periods was only their second this season.
A barrage in the final minute of overtime nearly reversed the third-period transgressions, but in the end the Capitals settled for the one point, patting Kolzig as they headed off the ice.