Capitals 2, Rangers 1

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NEW YORK (AP)—The New York Rangers have a lot more to worry about than a loss to the Washington Capitals.

Star center Eric Lindros was sidelined by another concussion Wednesday night, and Washington held on for a 2-1 win thanks to Olaf Kolzig’s 32 saves.

“He’s a big player to be out of the lineup,” Rangers captain Mark Messier said. “He’s an important part of our team. We will all have to pick it up in a lot of areas.”

Jeff Halpern and Trent Whitfield scored as Washington ended a three-game losing streak and won for the first time in seven road games (1-4-1-1). Kolzig made 19 saves in the third period, shutting out star forward Jaromir Jagr only five days after the Capitals traded him to New York.

Martin Rucinsky scored for the Rangers, who lost for the fifth time in six games.

Lindros, plagued by seven previous concussions during his career, took a hard hit along the boards from Capitals defenseman Jason Doig in the second period and was knocked to the ice.

“He came through with his head down,” Doig said. “I’ve got to make that hit. Guys around the league know I step up and make that play. I have all the respect in the world for Eric. I told him, ‘I’m not trying to hurt you.”’

On his next shift, Lindros took the faceoff and immediately dropped his gloves and stick and went after Doig. After a brief scuffle, Lindros pinned Doig to the ice. Both received fighting majors at 10:53.

Lindros did not return for the third period, and the Rangers said he would be re-evaluated Thursday.

“We’ve spoken to the doctor, (concussion specialist) Karen Johnston in Montreal,” Rangers coach and general manager Glen Sather said. “These things are hard to judge. By her over-the-phone diagnosis after talking to our doctors, they don’t think it’s that severe.”

In his third season with the Rangers, the 1995 NHL MVP has been playing his best hockey in years of late. He has 10 goals and 22 assists in 39 games.

The All-Star center was traded to New York by Philadelphia after sitting out a season because of a bitter feud with Flyers general manager Bob Clarke and while recovering from his seventh concussion.

Lindros was not available for comment after the game. Rangers center Bobby Holik called the possible loss of Lindros “devastating.”

“None of us saw him after the game, so we have to remain positive and wait and see,” Holik said.

Kolzig, who faced only 13 shots through the first two periods, was pressured throughout the third. He yielded only Rucinsky’s goal as the Capitals won on the road for only the seventh time this season.

“We got back to playing blue-collar Caps hockey,” Kolzig said. “Sometimes the harder-working team can beat the team with talent. That’s what we did through two periods, frustrate them.”

Halpern scored at 9:29 of the first as Washington connected on its first sustained flurry. Doig, skating behind the Rangers’ net, centered a pass to Halpern in the slot for the deflection past goalie Jussi Markkanen.

Washington increased its lead to 2-0 when Whitfield scored on an unassisted breakaway at 4:08 of the second.

The Rangers broke through on the goal by Rucinsky at 5:21 of the third to cut the lead to 2-1. Brian Leetch’s shot was deflected and dribbled toward the Washington net. Petr Nedved had the first crack before Rucinsky knocked in the rebound.

The teams met for the first time this season and the game took on an added edge following the trade of right wings Friday that brought Jagr to the Rangersfor Anson Carter.

Notes

Washington owner Ted Leonsis was suspended by the NHL for fighting with a fan Sunday. The 48-year-old Leonsis is to have no contact with his team for one week, effective immediately. The Capitals also were fined $100,000. … The game also marked a homecoming for Capitals coach Glen Hanlon, the former Rangers goalie who recorded 37 wins at Madison Square Garden to rank sixth on the career list in the building. He played more than three seasons with the Rangers from 1982-86. … The goal was Whitfield’s third, surpassing his season high of two in 2000-01. He has scored only six goals in 121 NHL games but has two against the Rangers, with whom he played one game in 2001-02. … Jim Craig, the goaltending hero of the 1980 Miracle On Ice U.S. Olympic team, was aguest of the Rangers.

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Three Stars

  Game Winning Goal
T. Whitfield T. Whitfield
Washington Capitals
Scored at 4:08 of 2nd

Goaltending

Goalie Team Shot Save
Mike Dunham NYI 0 0