WASHINGTON -- A hustling play by a couple of the lesser lights of the Washington Capitals, Todd Krygier and Andrei Nikolishin, resulted in a goal and a 3-2 victory over Buffalo after three minutes of overtime last night.
The win evened the Eastern Conference final series at one apiece as the teams head for Buffalo and Game 3 on Thursday night.
Nikolishin outhustled two Sabres defensemen in the corner to Buffalo goalie Dominik Hasek's left and somehow hit Krygier with a backhand pass in the slot about 15 feet in front of Hasek. Krygier was true with a shot to the goalie's left, over his catching glove.
"It's nice to see an unheralded player get rewarded like that," said Caps coach Ron Wilson of Krygier's heroics.
The coach and the game star had an run-in in Chicago a couple of years ago when both were employed by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. "We traded him to Washington after that," said Wilson.
"I told him, 'You're off the hook for the Chicago incident.' "
Asked what happened in Chicago, Krygier answered, "I don't even remember."
What he did remember vividly, however, was growing up in suburban Buffalo and being a huge Sabres fan. "I played with the Junior Sabres, went to a lot of games and had Gil Perrault as my idol."
Among the sellout crowd was President Clinton, the first president to attend an NHL game while in office. But he left at the end of regulation and didn't see the winning goal.
Clinton said: "Coming from the South, I knew nothing about it [hockey], but I'm having the time of my life. I love this. It's fascinating."
Wilson said "the win doesn't give us a psychological advantage, because we're tied 1-1 and Buffalo has the home-ice advantage."
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said, "I'm not going to whine about the officiating. We had a chance to win and didn't."
Then he did -- whine -- but with a pretty good case. "The overtime goal should have been an icing call. And the first goal [by Washington], Bondra was in the crease."
Replays showed that Peter Bondra was in the crease, but referee Kerry Fraser did not request help from upstairs, where the replay judges are situated.
"All I wanted them to do is ask, call the judges and prove that they [the officials] were right," Ruff said.
Olie Kolzig missed getting a victory in regulation when teammate Esa Tikkanen inadvertently tipped a puck in to give Buffalo a tying goal with 56 seconds remaining. But the goalie was all but blase about the frustrating turn of events.
"I think 'Tik' just got wrapped up in what was going on," he said of his veteran mate who has played as many playoff games as the goalie has regular-season games. "He had good intentions, trying to get the puck away from me, but it just didn't work out.
"As a matter of fact, I thought he'd get the winning goal in overtime because he had the hot stick. What happened now is we'll try to steal two games up there," said the man they call Godzilla. "What's most important though is we can't let the result of one game make us feel overly good or bad. Even if we lose two up there, it still takes four wins to take the series."
Pub Date: 5/26/98