Time after time this season, especially early on, Olie Kolzig has masked some of the defensive shortcomings of his teammates with his outstanding play in net. Sure, it's often been akin to putting lipstick on a pig, but hey, if you've gotta date the sow, you'll take as much makeup as she's willing to wear [overdone metaphor alert!]. Point being, Kolzig has picked up his teammates all season (the Caps have only won four games all year in which Kolzig has allowed three goals, compared to, say, the Hurricanes, who have won 16 times when Martin Gerber has been beaten three times). Even through the first two periods, the only reason the Caps were in the game was Kolzig's stellar play in goal and some strong penalty-killing. But late Thursday night it was the team's turn to pick Olie up, as the netminder let in one of his worst goals of the year midway through the third period.
"Unfortunately, I gift-wrapped the second goal for them," Kolzig would later say of his stick-handling blunder that gave Montreal a 2-1 lead and would be the only power-play goal the Caps yielded in 10 chances shorthanded. "I felt horrible." The Tarik el-Bashir described the go-ahead goal:
Halpern had won a faceoff deep in Washington's zone after a Capitals penalty and tipped the puck back to Kolzig, who reached to control the puck with his stick. But instead of gaining control of it, he redirected it onto the stick blade of Canadiens center Christopher Higgins, who netted his second goal of the game with 11:37 remaining.Though they could have easily packed it in at that point, there is no quit in these Capitals and nearly a dozen minutes later, with Kolzig watching from the bench after being pulled for the sixth attacker, captain Jeff Halpern banged home a loose puck on a goal-mouth scramble to tie the game with 2.5 seconds left. The Caps had indeed bailed Kolzig out and the game would head to overtime, but the storybook ending wasn't to be as Saku Koivu beat Kolzig on a breakaway in the extra session that Olie thought he had stopped. As the puck trickled through and the crowd of more than 21,000 erupted, however, he knew he hadn't made the save and the Caps suffered about as gut-wrenching a loss as a team 25 points out of a playoff spot with ten games left can have.
Now it's off to Ottawa for a date with the high-flyin' (though defensively-depleted) Sens, nation's capital-à-nation's capital.
Finally, with another visit to a Canadian rink, another couple of nice pieces on Alex Ovechkin from north of the border, the first from the CP. Included therein, this quote from the Caps' superstar:
When I came here, I was a bit nervous. I only knew one player, Dainius Zubrus, but now I know all the guys. We're like a big family. If we lose, we lose together, and if we win, we are happy together. We do everything together. It's very important.Awww. Can you feel the love? The second article is from the Montreal Gazette bemoaning the number of penalties called against the Caps because they kept AO off the ice. That's right - fans (who lustily cheered Alex during the player introductions) and writers alike in Montreal so appreciate Sasha's talent that they want to see more of him during the game, even if it results in its likely outcome (i.e. goals against the Habs):
[H]ad [Ovechkin] picked up his 50th here he would have had the Full Monty, a standing ovation from the NHL's biggest and liveliest crowd.Now those are hockey fans. Of course, the article devolves into "bitter Canadian writer" mode, but we don't need to go there. We don't need to, but we will:
If [Ovechkin] completes his quest in Washington, where that thoroughly rinky-dink organization is drawing flies, the feat will likely be witnessed by the Zamboni driver, a few NHL officials and the wealthy characters in the private box of owner Ted Leonsis.
That's the problem with this story: Ovechkin is the league's hottest young property, the almost certain winner of the Calder Trophy, arguably the most dangerous and exciting player in the NHL at age 20. And he's playing, like rookie rival Sidney Crosby, in a city where the team is on life support [he must be an avid reader of Damien Cox].
What a waste.
Who're you calling a wealthy character, pal? Oh, and by the way, how are the Expos looking this spring?
Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
- Happy 78th Birthday to Gordie Howe, Happy 41st Birthday to Tom Barrasso and Happy 35th Birthday to Pavel Bure. Six Stanley Cups, two Olympic silver medals, six Harts, six Rosses, two Calders, a Vezina, a Jennings, seven Richards (or equivalent), 1238 career goals, 2677 career points, 2504 career penalty minutes and 369 career wins. Nice trio of birthday boys, eh?
- Hart: Brendan Shanahan (Game-winning goal, assist, fight... ding! ding! ding!... +2 in 4-2 win at Nashville)
- Ross: Mike Johnson (3 points)
- Norris: Jaroslav Spacek (Goal, assist, +1, 2 hits)
- Vezina: Dwayne Roloson (20-save shutout win, assist)
- Richard: Christopher Higgins, Dmitri Afanasenkov, Steven Reinprecht (2 goals each)
- Calder: Christopher Higgins (2 goals, +2)
- Aiken: Evgeni Nabokov (Loss, 4 goals on 27 shots against)