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Ovechkin on board as Caps sink Kolzig

by Brian Hunter / NHL.com
For a player as gifted as Alexander Ovechkin, it was only a matter of time. And when the Washington Capitals superstar forward finally ended his goal drought Monday night, it came at the expense of an old friend.

Olaf Kolzig was back at the Verizon Center, wearing an unfamiliar jersey. The stalwart of 16 seasons in net for the Capitals returned as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and while the fans and the organization as a whole treated him warmly, his former teammates took no prisoners on the ice.

Washington jumped on Kolzig and Tampa Bay with a three-goal first period, and Ovechkin added an insurance tally with 4:06 left in the third, his first goal in 10 games, as the Capitals doubled up the Lightning, 4-2.

"You feed off a good shift," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said of his team's early surge. "One good shift comes and if they make the changes at the right time, the other line is kinetically-charged or something. They're tired and you’re energized. It's amazing the way it works."

Defenseman Tom Poti and Mike Green scored 1:35 apart in the first period for the Capitals, who also got a goal from Eric Fehr in remaining the only NHL team without a regulation loss at home (6-0-1). Brent Johnson, who backed up Kolzig in Washington last season, made his fourth straight start and finished with 34 saves.

"At the start of the game, it was strange," Johnson said. "Once the puck and the shots started coming, you kind of lose sight of that. But it's always fun to have Olie with me or play against him."

Kolzig made 26 stops and the Lightning got a pair of goals from Gary Roberts, but it wasn't enough to earn two points on this night.

"I didn't know what to expect going out on the ice -- I didn't expect to be down 3-0 in the first," Kolzig said.

Kolzig played his first games for Washington during the 1989-90 season, back in the days of the Patrick Division, and helped the team reach its pinnacle in 1998, when the Capitals made it to the Stanley Cup Final before they were swept by Detroit.

With Kolzig's stats declining in recent years, the Capitals went out and acquired Cristobal Huet at last season's trade deadline. It spelled the end of Kolzig's days as a starter, as Huet led Washington on a late run to the Southeast Division title, and during the offseason he moved on to Tampa Bay, where he currently backs up Mike Smith.

There was a video tribute prior to the start of Monday's game and the fans gave the veteran a warm welcome, with chants of "Olie, Olie" after the video and again following the national anthem. Kolzig, meanwhile, altered his usual game-day schedule to address the media before the game and cross paths with some old friends.

"It was as far away from a normal routine as it gets," Kolzig said. "That's not why it was 3-0 in the first, don't get me wrong, but after today it's back to business and getting back to my routine."

Poti got the Capitals on the board at 8:20 by finishing a play Donald Brashear started by carrying the puck down the right side of the ice. He dropped it for Poti, whose shot sailed over Kolzig's left shoulder. Green followed with his fifth of the season -- second only to Alexander Semin's 11 for tops on the team -- and Fehr made it 3-0 with 3:36 left in the period with a slap shot from the top of the left circle.

Tampa's early effort was extremely displeasing to coach Barry Melrose.

 
 
"After the game, I told the guys, 'Why try when you are down 3-0? Why do it then?"' Melrose said. "It was very disappointing to play like that in front of Olie in Washington. ... Probably the biggest game he's played in years and they show up and do that for him. Those guys should all be hiding their eyes when they walk by Olie Kolzig tonight."
   
Facing an uphill climb, the Lightning got on the board when Roberts scored on a power play with 3:30 left in the second. But Ovechkin got that one back for the Capitals by scoring just his third of the season. Both of his previous goals came in an Oct. 11 game against the Blackhawks, and the goalless drought was a career high.

Roberts beat Johnson again with 26 seconds remaining to close out the scoring and Kolzig's not-so-grand return.

"It will never be old hat, but it definitely won't be as nerve-racking as this one," Kolzig said. "I'm glad it's over with."

Material from wire services and team online media was used in this report.



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