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STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS

Kolzig Starts, Then Finishes Off Penguins

April 21, 1996|LEN HOCHBERG | WASHINGTON POST

PITTSBURGH — Four minutes into Friday night's game, Washington Capitals Coach Jim Schoenfeld's decision to give goaltender Olaf Kolzig his first career playoff start didn't look good. But 56 minutes later, after Kolzig endured the Pittsburgh Penguins' heavy onslaught and the Capitals had rallied not once but twice, Schoenfeld was proven right.

The Capitals -- after spending much of the last seven minutes shorthanded against the powerhouse Penguins -- scored a 5-3 victory at Civic Arena, taking a commanding two-games-to-none lead in this best-of-seven NHL first-round playoff series.

Only nine times since the best-of-seven format was introduced in 1939 has a team lost the first two games at home and come back to win the series. Games 3 and 4 will be at USAir Arena on Monday and Wednesday.

Kolzig -- who replaced an ineffective Jim Carey in Game 1, in which the Capitals rallied from a three-goal deficit to win -- got the start Friday night. He finished with a brilliant 33-save performance. But, in an almost identical situation as what happened to Carey on Wednesday, Kolzig allowed two goals in the first four minutes.

Pat Peake tied the score with his first two career playoff goals, both on power plays. Then, after Petr Nedved got his fourth of the series to give Pittsburgh a 3-2 lead, Mike Eagles scored the second playoff goal of his 12-year career to tie it again.

And when Peter Bondra beat Tom Barrasso on a power play with 8 minutes 17 seconds to play-giving the Capitals 3-for-6 power-play efficiency-they had their first lead.

But the Penguins, with far and away the league's best power play, got three power plays in the last 7:20. Incredibly, the Capitals kept them out of the goal, leaving Pittsburgh 1 for 7 with the man advantage Friday night.

With less than a minute to go, Washington's Michal Pivonka stepped out of the penalty box, got the puck with only an empty net in front of him and finished the scoring.

Joe Juneau was a tremendous penalty killer Friday night and he had three assists, giving him six for the playoffs.

Through two games, Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr do not have any goals.

"Whoever though we were going to steal two games from Pittsburgh," Bondra said in a television interview right after the game.

Schoenfeld's secrecy concerning his goaltender was taken up a couple of notches from the few times during the regular season that he didn't announce a starter. Not even people he normally tells, on the condition that they don't tell anyone else, knew Kolzig would be the one.

Heck, only one of the two goaltenders was told before this morning. "One of them went to sleep knowing, the other found out this morning," Schoenfeld said at the morning skate.

The veil of mystery continued past the pregame skate, for which the starting goaltender always is the first player on the ice. Friday night, Carey entered first. It wasn't until the starting lineups were announced that Schoenfeld's choice was known.

Kolzig didn't appear nervous at the beginning, but that didn't stop the Penguins from jumping on him.

Schoenfeld had talked after Game 1 how the Capitals were fortunate to win after committing many mistakes. So, 1:53 into Friday night's game, Michal Pivonka slashed Jagr.

Pittsburgh's power play was working proficiently, and Kolzig made two good saves. But he couldn't stop the third, after Lemieux skated behind the net, passed to Ron Francis at the blueline, with a quick feed then going to Nedved. From the bottom of the right circle, he lifted a dart over Kolzig's left shoulder, and it was 1-0 at 3:03.

It was Nedved who had scored two goals 11 seconds apart in Game 1 to provide a 2-0 bulge 3:04 in. Friday night, the Penguins waited all of 36 seconds to score again.

Glen Murray, who had lost his stick, was along the right boards when he fended off rookie Andrew Brunette to kick the puck back to defenseman Chris Joseph at the point. Joseph-who was scratched from Game 1 and played Friday night after J.J. Daigneault suffered an ankle injury-sent a bouncing shot that appeared to hit Kolzig's stick and deflect in.

So, after Carey had allowed two goals on three shots in 3:04 in Game 1, Kolzig yielded two goals on four shots in 3:39 in Game 2.

Nine minutes into the period, the Capitals made another mistake, when Peter Bondra fanned on the puck deep in the Capitals zone, forcing Jeff Nelson to hook Tomas Sandstrom before the Penguin shot from the slot. The Penguins held the puck in the zone for nearly the full two-minute advantage, but the Capitals weathered that stretch and it was 2-0 after one period.

The Capitals failed on their two power plays in the first, but connected on their two in the second to tie the score against goaltender Tom Barrasso. Both times, Peake was in the slot when he took feeds from Juneau behind the net. Peake scored his first career playoff at 3:48, after Juneau passed through three Penguins. Then Peake stuffed in his own rebound at 12:33, and these Rally Caps were deadlocked.

But it only took a minute for Pittsburgh to regain the lead. Defensemen Sylvain Cote and Eric Charron converged on an onrushing Jagr, and successful took him off the play. But they were out of position, too, leaving a free puck for Nedved to swoop in and break in alone on Kolzig. He scored high to the glove side at 13:54.

A minute after that, though, the Capitals got even again. A hustling Eagles was the first player down ice to corral a loose puck. He circled behind the net, came out to Barrasso's left-and Barrasso made a rookie mistake: He didn't wedge his pad against the post, and Eagles shot right there, with the puck hitting the back of Barrasso's leg and going in. It was 3-3, but it was a marvel the period ended that way. The Penguins had five prime chances in the final 3:18.

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