Sometimes, the frustration becomes overwhelming for Washington Capitals goalie Olaf Kolzig. Sometimes, when he is left to fend for himself and games slip away, he expresses his feelings in an otherwise quiet dressing room--displaying the kind of vocal leadership every team needs.
Last night Kolzig unleashed a tirade after the Capitals surrendered a two-goal lead at the end of the first period on a series of miscues. Everyone listened. Everyone responded. The Capitals played strong from that point and ended up with a 2-2 tie with the Boston Bruins before 12,811 at MCI Center on two early goals from Richard Zednik.
"I've tried to be pretty quiet this year but I was frustrated," Kolzig said. "We dominated the first period and then give [Joe] Thornton a breakaway and let [Anson] Carter come right down the middle to tie it up, bang-bang. That's been our nemesis this year; we could be head and shoulders above where we are right now if we don't fall asleep at key times in a game. I had my little rant and rave and the boys went out and played a great game."
The Capitals (9-10-5) might have won this game if not for bad luck and two breakdowns. They gradually took over and had several great chances to win in overtime, when they outshot Boston 5-1. The Capitals totaled 36 shots in the game and have earned at least one standings point in nine straight games at home (5-1-3, one overtime loss). Every game at MCI Center save for a blowout loss to Anaheim has been decided by two goals or less.
They seemed headed for a rout last night after scoring twice in the first 12 minutes. They swarmed Boston's defense, producing turnovers, bruising opponents in the corners, roaming free behind the net.
Many players believed it would take several games for centers Adam Oates and Jan Bulis to adjust to Coach Ron Wilson's line changes--he swapped the centers on the top two lines--but the chemistry was immediate. Bulis wove several feeds to Peter Bondra as if they had skated together for years; the line of Oates (11 points in 11 games) Steve Konowalchuk and Zednik was outstanding.
Less than five minutes into the game, Oates fought off defensemen, Konowalchuk and Carter battled for the puck and Konowalchuk nudged it ahead to Oates. He snapped a perfect pass to Zednik and the 23-year-old hammered the puck into the goal--a violent release that left former Capitals goalie Byron Dafoe with little chance.
"That's the kind of shot Zed has," Konowalchuk said. "Oates is going to be able to feed him for a lot of those plays. Oates passes the puck before you're even ready to shoot, and Zed has such a quick release--if they can get their timing down hopefully we'll see a lot of those, because that's Zed's bread and butter."
Zednik was not finished celebrating. About six minutes later defenseman Calle Johansson won the puck deep in the corner; Oates and Konowalchuk were eager to help, beating defenseman Jonathon Girard and Shawn Bates. Konowalchuk snapped a perfect feed to Zednik as he cut toward the goal and he continued his dash through the crease, waiting for Dafoe to go down before lofting it over his glove for his sixth goal.
One poor decision turned the game. Rookie Alexei Tezikov forced a tough cross-ice pass to Sergei Gonchar rather than make the easy play off the boards. Gonchar couldn't handle the puck on his backhand and Thornton, the Bruins' leading scorer, converted a breakaway just 46 seconds after Zednik's second goal.
With about three minutes left in the period, the Bruins' comeback was complete. Brendan Witt broke his stick and could not contain Mikko Eloranta behind the net. Johansson played the pass and Bondra didn't put a hand on Carter as he popped the puck between Kolzig's legs from the crease.
Kolzig stormed to the dressing room an angry man. The 2-0 lead was now a 2-2 tie. The goalie commanded the team's attention.
"Everyone got the point," defenseman Ken Klee said. "He's frustrated that a sloppy play here or there is costing us points, and that is his prerogative. He's the man, and if he's got something to say he's a veteran guy and he can step up and say it."
Capitals Notes: Defenseman Joe Reekie (bruised foot) and forward Chris Simon (neck sprain) were out with injuries. Center Mike Eagles was a healthy scratch. . . .
The Capitals have killed 37 straight power plays at home and 76 of 78 over the last 19 games. . . . The Capitals failed to score on a four-minute power play at the start of the second period--they are 20th in the NHL on the power play and worst at home (4-44). . . .
The Capitals are 8-5-2 against the Eastern Conference; 6-3-2 against conference teams that made the playoffs last season. . . . The Capitals are 5-3-3 in their last 11 games. . . . It's still very early, but the Capitals have 24 points, as many points as Buffalo, putting them in a tie for the final playoff spot.
CAPTION: Washington's Joe Sacco has front-row seat as a shot is saved by Bruins goalie Byron Dafoe. "I had my little rant and rave," said Olaf Kolzig.
CAPTION: Adam Oates, working with two new wingers, finds Boston's Mikko Eloranta, left, and Anson Carter on his flanks.