WASHINGTON (AP)—Three days shy of his 37th birthday, Olie Kolzig posted a shutout for the aged.
“There was a lot of a help, a lot of luck,” Kolzig said. “To get a shutout you need all those things to happen. It took three years for it to happen to me.”
The Capitals got on the board with Alex Ovechkin’s 44th goal of the season on a shot from the slot at 5:28 of the second period. The 96th goal of Ovechkin’s career gave him 90 points this season, making Ovechkin only the second Capitals player to score 90 or more points in back-to-back seasons. Dennis Maruk was the other to accomplish the feat in 1980-81 and 1981-82.
But the night belonged to Kolzig, the longest-tenured Capitals player.
The shutout was Kolzig’s first since Feb. 15, 2004, during the Capitals’ 4-0 win at Chicago, and the 34th of his 18-year NHL career. He since had made 126 starts without holding an opponent scoreless.
“Olaf did an unbelievable job and saved the game,” Ovechkin said. “He does unbelievable things.”
Kolzig, as is his nature, deferred some of the credit to the condition of the playing surface.
“The ice was horrible out there,” Kolzig said. “I don’t think any team could get control of the puck and really generate any chances off the rush. The pucks were bouncing everywhere
“Bottom line is we got the win, and in order to get that, I had to get the shutout. I always say the shutout for me is a bonus.”
Kolzig (22-23-6) faced his most serious threat when Florida defenseman Jay Bouwmeester’s shot from beyond the circle hit the left post with 30 seconds remaining in the second period.
“I thought that we got stronger as the game went on and we just weren’t able to get one by Kolzig,” Panthers coach Jacques Martin said. “We hit a couple posts and he made a couple of good saves. … It just seemed like it was going to be one of those games where it was going to be a low-scoring game.”
Washington coach Glen Hanlon gave Kolzig more credit.
“Tonight was a game that he wanted to make a statement for his team, and he did it,” Hanlon said. “This is how we’re going to have to play next year. We’re going to have to play tight hockey and win 1-0 games.”
Brent Johnson was the last goalie to post a shutout for the Capitals. He held Ottawa scoreless on April 1, 2006, another 1-0 victory.
Kolzig is one of seven active goalies with 250-plus career wins and one of only two in that group to record all of his victories with the same team. Martin Brodeur of the Devils is the other.
The Capitals improved to 21-8-8 when they score first and 20-1-5 when they lead after two periods. Washington is 6-31-6 when its opponents score first.
Washington did not allow a goal in the first two periods for the sixth time this season. The last time they accomplished that feat was Jan. 18, during a 5-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.
Ovechkin is four goals shy of 100 and four points away from 200 for his NHL career. He just missed on another scoring opportunity midway through the third period when his shot got through the legs of Panthers goalie Craig Anderson but missed the net.
With two games remaining, the Capitals need one win to match their 70 standings points of last season. Since winning consecutive home games two weekends ago, Washington had gone 0-5-1.
Anderson, who won his first game last Wednesday against Atlanta, had 16 saves.
“I just read it wrong and I didn’t think he was going to get that pass,” Anderson said of Ovechkin’s goal. “I was anticipating a drop pass or something. With a guy like that, I’ve just got to take his stick.”
^@Notes: The Capitals have two first-round and two second-round picks in the 2007 draft. Barring trades, that would give Washington 13 first-round selections in the past six drafts. … Ottawa’s Dany Heatley is the only NHL player with more goals than Ovechkin since Ovechkin entered the league last season. … Laich’s assist was his 10th of the season and his first since March 21 at Buffalo.