LANDOVER -- The Washington Capitals missed an excellent opportunity to take over sole possession of fourth place in the Patrick Division last night by losing, 3-2, to the Hartford Whalers at the Capital Centre.
The loss broke a three-game Capitals winning streak and was their first loss in the past six games. Washington, playing before 16,134, many of whom booed loudly after the final buzzer, remained tied for the fourth Stanley Cup playoff berth in the Patrick Division with the idle New Jersey Devils.
The victory broke a Hartford nine-game winless streak and was the third win of the season for the Whalers over the Capitals.
"It was a very disappointing loss," said Capitals coach Terry Murray. "I said before the game that it wouldn't be so much the physical aspects but the mental ones that would give us trouble in this game. We made things very difficult on ourselves. We missed passes, couldn't control the bouncing puck, we were continually offside and couldn't get the puck in deep, especially in the third period.
"Everyone was trying to do it himself, hit a home run instead of using teamwork. We made mistakes at the blue line and couldn't get the puck down low, so we could forecheck and create offensive chances. We had no coordination to the flow of the game in the third period."
Washington, trailing, 3-2, after two periods, managed only three shots on goal in the final 20 minutes and Murray pulled goalie Don Beaupre with 54 seconds remaining to get an extra attacker on the ice.
Kay Whitmore made 21 saves but he was not tested sternly.
"The defense was unbelievable," said Whitmore. "They kept Washington from getting many quality shots, especially in the third period. Our play in that period is a sign that the team is coming together."
A second-period goal by Terry Yake, his first in the National Hockey League, was the game-winner and gave Hartford a 3-1 lead. The Capitals pared the lead to 3-2 on Kelly Miller's power-play goal later in the period but could not get the equalizer.
"I felt good, extremely confident," said Yake who was called up yesterday from the Springfield Indians of the American Hockey League. "Todd Krygier made a great play on my goal. He saw that Beaupre was cheating to the right side and passed the puck to me on the left. I caught Beaupre leaning. I'll take goals like that all year."
In addition to assisting on Yake's goal, Krygier scored Hartford's first goal. John Cullen scored the other.
"We had an overall good effort," said Whalers coach Rick Ley. "We are playing for pride because we already have a playoff spot clinched. But it is important that we give our best effort every night. The team defense was great and Yake was terrific. His call-up isn't a one-game deal. He proved he wants to play."
Dale Hunter, in his first game back from a four-game suspension, scored the Capitals first goal.
"We had our chances to score, but we didn't cash in on our opportunities," said Hunter. "We made too many turnovers at the blue line in the third period. We were trying to do too much. The loss hurts, especially coming after we had two big victories on the road. We'll just have to get it back against Quebec."
Calle Johannson said: "It's very hard to win games when you only score two goals. We played hard tonight, but you have to score to win. But we can't afford to get down because we have another game Thursday [Quebec] and another Saturday [Philadelphia] and we have to put this one behind us and get ready for the next ones."
NOTES: It was brother against brother last night at the Capital Centre. Washington's Dale Hunter played against his younger brother, Mark, of the Whalers .