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Capitals pick up where they left off

October 11, 1998

By MARK KELLER / Staff Writer

WASHINGTON - If the Washington Capitals are to defend their Eastern Conference title this season, one thing they cannot afford to do is become complacent and rest on last year's successes.

And just in case the Caps needed to be reminded of that, the message was blasted at them in large, white letters from the giant video screens at MCI Center Saturday night.

"That was then ... this is now!"

It came after a stirring highlight reel from the Capitals' 1998 playoff run and the unveiling of their conference championship banner.

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And the Caps wasted little time in showing the capacity crowd of 19,740 that they are well aware that last year is history.

Richard Zednik scored less than five minutes into the game, and goalkeeper Olaf Kolzig made it stand up with 29 saves as Washington won its season opener, 1-0 over the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.

"It's nice to get that first goal early," Zednik said. "It got us out on the right foot tonight."

Zednik's goal came just eight seconds after Anaheim's Tomas Sandstrom went to the penalty box on a tripping call.

Zednik took a pass from Joe Juneau off the faceoff and skated in on the right side of Ducks goalie Dominic Roussel. Roussel stopped Zednik's backhander, but Zednik flipped the rebound just inside the far post.

The Caps then left it to Kolzig, in much the same way they did in the playoffs. "Olie the Goalie" asserted himself as one of the league's best stoppers last year, tying an NHL record with four post-season shutouts. And again on Saturday, he made like a piece of plywood in front of the Anaheim goal.

"Olie played a whale of a game tonight, and his defense stood up for him," said Capitals coach Ron Wilson. "A shutout is a heck of a way to start a season."

The Ducks made their most serious threats in the second period, but Kolzig was up to the task every time.

Mike LeClerc stole the puck from Brendan Witt right in front of the Washington goal and passed to Antti Aalto, who skated in alone on Kolzig. But Kolzig stopped Aalto cold.

Late in the period, Sandstrom broke in from the left side and sent a low shot to Kolzig's left. Kolzig sprawled out on the ice as the puck bounced first off his glove, then his face mask, but not in the goal.

The Ducks stayed on the attack in the third, taking advantage of a penalty to Peter Bondra. Fredrik Olausson fired a shot from the point that squirted behind Kolzig before being swept away by Calle Johansson. A second shot by Olausson on the same power play was smothered by defenseman Ken Klee.

"It's unfortunate that (Kolzig) was so good, because Roussel was excellent tonight as well," said Anaheim coach Craig Hartburg, who is in his first season as the Ducks' head coach. "Kolzig was the difference."

Zednik just missed a second goal in the third period when he took a pass from Chris Simon just in front of Roussel. But his backhand shot was blocked by Pavel Trnka.

The league's two top goal scorers of a year ago - Bondra and Anaheim's Teemu Selanne - were kept out of the scoring column. But in Bondra's case, it wasn't for a lack of opportunities.

Roussel stopped a short-handed Bondra slap shot midway through the third period, and Bondra shot wide on the rebound.

With five minutes left, Bondra fired another shot at Roussel, who had no choice but to throw his body in front of the screaming puck.

"We had our chances tonight, but we couldn't take advantage," Selanne said. "I don't think they are a much better team than us when we are at our best. We just have to be ready to play every night."

The Capitals outshot the Ducks, 34-29.

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