Capitals goalie Olaf Kolzig makes 40 saves and the Lightning (four goals in four games) falls 3-0.
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published December 24, 2002
WASHINGTON -- If there is such a thing as a goalie who is not red hot, the Lightning sure would like to meet him.
For the third consecutive game a generally energetic effort was turned into frustration by someone between the pipes who decided standing on his head every now and then was easier than standing on two feet.
The result: 40 saves by Washington's Olaf Kolzig and a 3-0 loss to the Capitals Monday night at the MCI Center.
"He made the big saves when he needed to make them and kept them in the game," Lightning left wing Dave Andreychuk said.
The loss also brought Tampa Bay back to the pack in the Southeast.
The Lightning, 0-2-2 in its past four with just four goals despite 132 shots, is in a dead heat with the Hurricanes atop the division, though Tampa Bay has the benefit of a 2-0-1 series lead.
What should make the team shudder, though, is its 38 points, if not in first place, would be tied for the East's eighth and final playoff spot.
"The pressure is on us," said Andreychuk, who played after missing nine games with a fractured big right toe. "That is what we have to stress, that we have to be desperate every game."
As Tampa Bay is finding out, opponents are growing desperate as well.
Take the Capitals, who are 4-1-1 in their past six, hit .500 for the first time since Nov. 18 and are riding a goaltender who has a .955 save percentage in four games since returning from a groin injury.
"Now," Kolzig said, "we go into Christmas feeling good about ourselves."
Kolzig, who has stopped 128 of his past 134 shots, made a first-period goal by Steve Konowalchuk and a second-period goal by Robert Lang stand up during a third period in which the Lightning had a 13-5 shot advantage. Peter Bondra scored an empty-netter with 16.9 seconds left.
Kolzig's best sequence came during a second-period Lightning power play in which he stopped a Vinny Lecavalier breakaway and Andreychuk's wrist shot from the slot with a quick right leg.
He used the same leg to stop Ben Clymer early in the third and the left leg to stop Lecavalier with 1:16 left.
It was the first time the Lightning was shut out in 77 games going back to a 2-0 loss Jan. 2 to the Blackhawks.
"He's a good goalie and he made the key saves," Lecavalier said. "But we have to bury those. There's no excuse when you get 40 shots."
"We're creating chances," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "We're just not able to finish. And when you're not able to finish in this league, the mistakes you make on defense show up."
Pavel Kubina made a mistake not following the puck after defensive partner Brad Lukowich impeded Washington's Mike Grier on a dump-in. Center Brad Richards, whose league-high 10-game points streak ended, also was out of position, and Kubina allowed Jeff Halperin's pass to get to Konowalchuk, who scored from the side of the net.
Defenseman Cory Sarich made the mistake of sprawling on the ice to try to stop Lang's progress to the net in the second. Lang simply pulled the puck out of Sarich's reach and fired a laser past goalie Nikolai Khabibulin from in close.
Neither play would have mattered had the Lightning been able to beat Kolzig. And the situation in the standings might not be as dire had it been able to finish more golden opportunities against Toronto's Ed Belfour in Thursday's 2-1 loss or Nashville's Tomas Vokoun, who made 38 saves, in Saturday's 2-2 tie.
"It's going to happen as you go through a long season," Tortorella said. "Teams go through things like this. But you can't leave the team concept and try to get fancy. We're going to keep on grinding and trying to make things happen. Hopefully, when it breaks, it will break wide open."