What gives? Capitals losing puck, ground in Patrick Division race

February 05, 1991|By James H. Jackson

The Washington Capitals, in fifth place in the Patrick Division of the National Hockey League, have been struggling, winning three and tying one of their past 10 games.

Two of the wins have come against the last-place New York Islanders and the other against another struggling team, the Detroit Red Wings, and all have been in overtime.

The latest loss was to the Winnipeg Jets. Washington took a 2-0 lead, then gave up four goals in the third period. During that third period, the Capitals turned over the puck to the Jets 12 times, and all four Winnipeg goals came after giveaways.

"I didn't realize that we had given up the puck that many times," said Capitals coach Terry Murray. "I know Winnipeg turned up the tempo in the third period and took the game away from us. We just didn't make the adjustments.

"It always seems to come down to the giveaways. We have the puck, and it's a turnover. Instead of a win, it's a tie game. We've continually done that this year."

Murray said he constantly tries to correct the problem.

"The turnovers are something we're aware of and we've talked about," he said. "We have to be better. We have to concentrate and grab the puck and go with it. It's more mental errors than anything else."

A month ago, Washington had the best power-play percentage in the NHL, but the Capitals have one goal in their past 38 extra-man tries. Washington has more short-handed goals (two) in its past three games than power-play scores (one).

The Capitals are four games under .500. Washington has 26 regular-season games remaining, plenty of time to overtake the New Jersey Devils and make the Stanley Cup playoffs for a ninth straight season.

Are changes planned?

"We're not going to make any changes right now," said general manager David Poile, who made deals during over the past two weeks to acquired defensemen Al Iafrate and right wing John Kordic from the Toronto Maple Leafs and defenseman Ken Sabourin from the Calgary Flames. "We're just going to go along with what we have for the time being."

Murray said: "I may have to do some juggling of my lines. Peter Bondra and Steve Leach both have injured shoulders and will be out seven to 10 days."

Murray said he was pleased with the three new players.

"I'm very excited about Iafrate," Murray said. "He is going to be a great player. He's very explosive, has all the tools to be a great scorer and he is constantly working to improve. He is coming off a very serious knee injury, and he seems to be almost 100 percent.

"Kordic played just the one game for us against the Islanders, and he did very well considering that he hadn't played in seven weeks. He is a very hard worker in practice.

"I couldn't be more pleased with Sabourin. We got him to be a sixth defenseman, and he has played his role very well. He is a big, strong kid who gives you a solid shift whenever he's on the ice."

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