Saturday, January 4, 2003
The Capitals climbed into a first-place tie in the Southeast Division.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Washington Capitals' strategy all season has been to move ahead a point at a time.
And that philosophy has the Capitals in a first-place tie in the Southeast Division.
Sergei Gonchar scored his second goal of the game on a power play midway through the third period, and the Capitals salvaged a 2-2 tie Friday night with the struggling Columbus Blue Jackets.
The tie gave Washington points in nine straight, and the 5-0-2-2 run put the Capitals in a tie with Tampa Bay for the division lead. Washington has earned a single point in three of its last four games.
"Every point is a point, and every point counts," said Gonchar, who has eight goals. "We want to continue to play the same way, because a point in April is the same as a point we get now."
Gonchar beat a screened Marc Denis with 9:32 left in regulation with a slap shot from the left point against the league's top penalty-killing team.
"We have a chance to wake up [alone] in first place at the halfway mark with a lot of our road schedule done," Washington coach Bruce Cassidy said. "There's been a lot of negative stuff talked about the Caps all year. I'd like to focus on the positive."
Ray Whitney and David Vyborny scored for Columbus, which was 0-for-7 on the power play.
"We're happy with the point, but we probably could have put it away on the power play. ... One four-on-three and one five-on-three, and they didn't score," Columbus coach Dave King said.
Gonchar gave Washington a 1-0 early in the first when he put in his own rebound.
Columbus tied it late in the period with its ninth short-handed goal to match Detroit for the most in the NHL. Duvie Westcott picked up Jaromir Jagr's turnover just outside the Columbus zone and head-manned to Mike Sillinger for a two-on-one break finished off by Whitney at the right post.
Vyborny put the Blue Jackets ahead 2-1 late in the second. When goaltender Sebastien Charpentier couldn't control Rostislav Klesla's shot from the left point, Vyborny pounced on the loose puck and scored his ninth goal on a sweeping backhander.
Gonchar's tying goal came just as a two-man advantage turned into a man-up edge for the Capitals. But Washington wore down the Blue Jackets' usually effective penalty killers.
"Our penalty killing, it's been outstanding for us, especially our two-man disadvantages," Denis said. "Maybe we shouldn't have been in a two-man disadvantage, but that's part of the game.
D Calle Johansson played in his 941st game for Washington, breaking the franchise record held by Kelly Miller (1986-99).
Capitals RW Peter Bondra missed his second straight game with the flu, so RW Andrea Salomonsson was recalled from AHL Portland.
Whitney's goal was his first in nine games. Columbus had six short-handed goals in franchise history before this season -- three in each of the club's first two years.