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Milestone win for Kolzig

by Brian Compton

Olaf Kolzig won his 300th NHL game, all with Washington, last night by beating the Calgary Flames. Watch Ollie earn win #300
Some random thoughts while the city of Phoenix eagerly anticipates the return of David Hernandez:

Congrats, Ollie! -- If there's one word that could be used to describe Washington Capitals goaltender Olaf Kolzig, it's this: Steady.

The 37-year-old made 24 saves Wednesday night to record the 300th NHL victory of his brilliant career, as the Caps earned a 3-2 win over the Calgary Flames at the Verizon Center.

Kolzig, who has spent his entire NHL career in Washington, became the 23rd goalie to win 300 games. His next victory will tie New York Rangers great Mike Richter on the all-time list.

"I was looking to play one game in the NHL when I first got drafted," Kolzig said. "I've had a bunch of good players in front of me over my career. I've been fortunate to stay healthy for the most part. There's nothing worse than just hanging around 299. It's great to get it over with and move on." 

Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau -- who only has been at the helm since Thanksgiving -- believes Kolzig will play a key role for Washington down the stretch as it continues to fight for a playoff spot. The Caps also have Cristobal Huet, whom they acquired from the Montreal Canadiens on Feb. 26.

"I'm really proud to be a part of it," Boudreau said. "There's a lot of other great coaches that have seen him win an awful lot more games than me, but 300 wins is an awful lot of wins. If you look at his numbers the last 10, 12 games, they're pretty darn good. You need guys like him."

You also need a guy like Alex Ovechkin, who broke a 2-2 tie with 1:54 left in the third period. It was his 56th goal of the season and second of the night. Kolzig said afterward that Ovechkin should win the Hart Trophy if the Caps make the playoffs.

Ovechkin -- who had a camera focused on him throughout the game (they called it the OvechKam) -- simply was happy he could help his buddy pick up a milestone victory.
"It was a big win for the team, and for him," Ovechkin said.

7-Up -- Without Sidney Crosby and Marian Hossa, one would think Evgeni Malkin would have had to carry the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night, right?

Not exactly.

Christopher Minard celebrates scoring his first NHL goal with teammates Ryan Stone and Jordan Staal of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Seven different Penguins found the back of the net (Malkin was one of them) en route to an impressive 7-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres at Mellon Arena. It was Pittsburgh's highest output of the season.

"I think guys feel now that if we do have to play with a shortened lineup, they feel comfortable with what they can do and what they can produce," said Penguins goalie Ty Conklin, who made 29 saves in the victory.

The win gave the Penguins 87 points, tying them with the Montreal Canadiens for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Pittsburgh also moved one point ahead of the New Jersey Devils for first place in the Atlantic Division.

They're also 12-6-4 without Crosby, who sat out Wednesday's game due to recurring pain from the ankle injury he suffered in January. The Penguins are hopeful he'll be in the lineup Sunday, when they host the Philadelphia Flyers.

How Sweep It Is -- Forty-eight hours and two wins over the Philadelphia Flyers have the Toronto Maple Leafs feeling pretty good about themselves.

Pavel Kubina was the hero again for the Leafs. After scoring the game-winning goal in overtime Tuesday, Kubina broke a 2-2 tie early in the third period as Toronto pulled within five points of No. 8 Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference.

''We just have to get him out there more,'' Leafs coach Paul Maurice said of Kubina, who has nine goals this season. ''It's a confidence issue and he's feeling good with that puck right now. He's getting it hard off his stick and he's played well.''

Not all the news was good for Toronto, as captain Mats Sundin went down in the first period with a strained groin muscle. The Leafs, though, are optimistic Sundin -- who saw his nine-game point streak come to an end -- will be in the lineup Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres.

Meanwhile, the Flyers are reeling from tough back-to-back losses. Wednesday's defeat has them just two games above .500 at home this season (16-14-6). Philadelphia coach John Stevens hopes his team can turn things around Saturday at Boston.

''We're just making this group more crowded all the time,'' Stevens said. ''It's time for us to start taking care of ourselves.''

Panthers Beat Bridgeport Sound Tigers
-- OK, maybe that's a little harsh. But the squad the Florida Panthers beat 4-2 Wednesday night at BankAtlantic Center could, at the very least, be labeled "The Team Formerly Known As The New York Islanders."

Due to the loss of two more players (Andy Hilbert and Ruslan Fedotenko) in Tampa Bay on Tuesday night, the Isles had eight players with American Hockey League experience this season (Aaron Johnson, Matthew Spiller, Jeff Tambellini, Tim Jackman, Ben Walter, Freddy Meyer, Steve Regier, Blake Comeau) in the lineup against the Panthers.

Kudos to the Islanders for hanging tough until Karlis Skrastins broke a 2-2 tie 8:22 into the third period. They nearly tied it late, but Comeau's missed backhander turned into an empty-net goal the other way.

As captain Bill Guerin said after Tuesday's loss to the Lightning, "When it rains, it pours."
For the Islanders, there are flash flood warnings.

"When things are going bad, they keep going bad," Isles coach Ted Nolan said. "Blake just missed that last one. In his career, I think Blake will score more than he misses."
Florida, meanwhile, is cruising. The Panthers have won five in a row and have pulled within five points of the Philadelphia Flyers for the eighth playoff spot.

"We got better as the game went on, and that's encouraging," Florida coach Jacques Martin said. "It was good that we got stronger and found a way to win it. We don't have much room for errors right now. We almost have to win every game."

Fading Fast -- Earlier in the season, it looked like the Chicago Blackhawks were destined to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which would have provided them a national stage to showcase budding stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

Wednesday's 3-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, however, was Chicago's fourth straight, putting it on the verge of missing the postseason for the ninth time in 10 seasons. The Hawks have scored one goal in their last two games, as they dropped a 3-1 decision to the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday night. Chicago visits Columbus on Friday.

"The last two games, I don't think the effort's really been there and the results, obviously, haven't been there, either," Kane said.

Blackhawks coach Denis Savard agreed with the rookie. At the end of the day, Savard wants to see a lot more from his club.

"There's no excuses," Savard said. "We prepare them in the morning and they have to come to the game mentally ready. There's no excuses for it. That's the bottom line. At this time of the year, you've got to earn your goals and you've got to earn your wins. We didn't tonight."

Fort Neverlose -- The defending Stanley Cup champs won their eighth straight on home ice -- a new franchise record -- in impressive fashion Wednesday night.

The Anaheim Ducks avoided what would have been a season sweep by the Vancouver Canucks by chasing world-class goaltender Roberto Luongo in a 4-1 win at the Honda Center.

The Ducks have a League-best 52 points at home and are 15-2-0 at the Honda Center since Dec. 19.

"Any time you have a guy like Luongo between the pipes, it's nice to get him out of there," said Anaheim center Doug Weight, who ended the goalie's night with his 10th goal of the season, at 4:03 of the second period.

The Ducks now are two points behind the San Jose Sharks for the Pacific Division lead. They'll look to make it 10 in a row at home Saturday night against the St. Louis Blues.

"This team has always played well at home, and to keep that going is great," said forward Travis Moen, who scored a shorthanded goal in the first period. "It seems like we always come out to good starts lately in our barn. It was good to come out and get a three-goal lead."

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