Final OT

Series (Game 1 of 2)

Washington leads 1-0

Game 1: Monday, December 16th
Game 2: Sunday, March 16th

Capitals 2

(13-16-0, 29 pts)

Avalanche 2

(10-8-4, 33 pts)

9:00 PM ET, December 16, 2002

Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado

1 2 3 OT T
WSH 0 2 0 02
COL 1 1 0 02

O. Kolzig (Capitals - G): Saves: 35, Save Pct.: .946

M. Skoula (Avalanche - D): Goals: 0, Assists: 2

M. Hejduk (Avalanche - RW): Goals: 1, Assists: 0

Kolzig makes 35 saves in return

DENVER (AP) -- Although he hadn't played since Dec. 3 because of a groin injury, it was as if Olaf Kolzig had never been away.

Olaf Kolzig

Kolzig came off the injured list and made 35 saves Monday night as the Washington Capitals salvaged a 2-2 tie with the Colorado Avalanche.

''This wasn't a bad return,'' Kolzig said. ''I thought I played well.''

Teammate Jaromir Jagr agreed.

''He hadn't practiced much, it was his first game back and he was unbelievable,'' Jagr said. ''He was sharp. He keeps us in games.''

Capitals coach Bruce Cassidy said his team ''started running out of gas on the blue line in the third period, but Olie kept us in there. You need that on the road. The goaltender has to be good.''

Jagr and Jeff Halpern had goals for the Capitals. Steven Reinprecht and Milan Hejduk scored for Colorado.

It was Colorado's 14th overtime game this season and NHL-leading ninth tie.

Colorado was without two of its stars, Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg, scratched because of ankle and neck injuries, respectively.

Kolzig, who had missed the previous four games with a groin injury, had big saves in both the scoreless third period and overtime.

Midway through the third period, he stopped Radim Vrbata from the slot after he took a perfect pass from Reinprecht. Kolzig also stopped Alex Tanguay from the right circle in overtime.

Colorado's Derek Morris hit the right post in the third period.

Washington had a power play for the last 1:23 of overtime but couldn't convert.

Patrick Roy had 23 saves for Colorado.

''We had a solid game tonight,'' Roy said. ''Kolzig made some great saves. It's too bad. We deserved a lot better than a tie. We had good chances, and I thought we were sharp.''

Avalanche coach Bob Hartley praised what he called a ''big team effort. When you don't have your top two scorers in the lineup, you have to do it as a team. No one is going to replace those two guys.''

Hartley singled out Reinprecht, who had eight shots.

''I felt Rhino definitely played his best game of the season,'' Hartley said. ''He wanted to be the leader up front, and he did it.''

The Avalanche took a 1-0 lead in the first period on Reinprecht's third goal. Martin Skoula's shot ricocheted off the glass into the right circle to Reinprecht, whose shot through traffic beat Kolzig at 10:19.

Washington took a 2-1 lead in the second period, but Hejduk tied it at 15:51.

Halpern jammed the puck past Roy at 3:05. After Colorado defenseman Adam Foote was hit in the face and lost his stick, Jagr blew past him and chipped the puck over Roy at 10:56 for his 16th goal.

Hejduk took a cross-ice pass from Tanguay and scored from the left circle.

Game notes

Sakic was honored in a pregame ceremony for scoring his 500th career goal last Wednesday. He was presented with an honorary puck from NHL executive Jim Gregory and with a plaque listing all 500 of his goals from Avalanche player personnel director Michel Goulet. ... Washington went 1-3-1 on its just-completed five-game road trip. ... Roy had allowed 13 goals in his previous three starts.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press