LANDOVER -- Terry Murray's worst fears came true last night at the Capital Centre.
Forty-eight hours after an emotional victory over the Montreal Canadiens, his Washington Capitals came out flat in the first period against the struggling New York Islanders.
Washington gave up two first-period goals to the Islanders and couldn't quite recover despite a frantic two-goal, third-period rally and lost, 3-2, before a crowd of 17,366.
The same fans who were cheering the Capitals' comeback were booing a little in the first period. Then the team looked disorganized on two power plays and mishandled the puck several times.
Washington, which had won nine straight games against the Islanders, attempted shot after shot against goaltender Steve Weeks in the final 4 minutes, 41 seconds after cutting the lead to 3-2 on Al Iafrate's power-play goal.
Somehow, Weeks staved off the assault, which included two pile-ups in front of the net, where he was outnumbered.
Weeks finished with 32 saves, and he made goals by Derek King, Dave McLlwain and Ray Ferraro stand up for the upset victory.
Ferraro's goal gave New York a 3-0 lead at 15:42 of the second period. It came as he re-directed a shot by Uwe Krupp from the blue line into the net.
The Ferraro goal sent the Capitals into a deeper funk before they suddenly awoke in the third period behind goals by Dino Ciccarelli and Iafrate.
Murray said: "I kept looking for someone to do it by himself tonight but we don't have that type team. I think the message is finally starting to sink in: We have to play as 20 guys for an entire 60 minutes. We're talking about it a lot and I think the players are starting to see it for themselves."
Even though the Capitals obviously were flat early, Iafrate didn't think it was because of an emotional letdown after the 3-1 victory over the Canadiens in the battle for the overall lead in the National Hockey League.
"Heck, how can you have a letdown when there are this many people yelling for you?" he said. "This was great. We had more people here tonight than we did for the first round of the playoffs against New York [Rangers] last year."
Iafrate said it was just a matter of the Islanders "beating us 5-on-5 all night long. They outplayed us. They were beating us to the loose pucks, outhustling and outhitting us. When that happens, you're going to lose 99 percent of the time."
After bringing the Capitals within a goal with his extra-man score with 4:41 left, Iafrate was called for a two-minute roughing penalty eight seconds later.
The roughing penalty gave New York a power play and quite possibly took a little momentum away from Washington.
But Iafrate said he didn't believe the penalty affected the outcome.
"They outmanned us all night long," said Iafrate. "We weren't beating them 5 on 5, so it didn't really matter. I didn't purposely hit anybody for the penalty. It wasn't retaliation for an earlier hit I took."
Weeks said he tried to hold on as best he could during the late Washington flurry.
"You try and stay calm. We were a little bit calmer as a group at the end," he said. "He helped to get the power-play opportunity [Iafrate penalty] at the end."
Washington entered the game with the most goals in the NHL (117) and tied with the Canadiens for the most points (36).
Weeks said: "You have to be happy and very excited with two points with the way Washington is playing."
NY Islanders 2 -- 1 -- 0 -- 3
Washington ..0 -- 0 -- 2 -- 2
First period--1, New York, King 14 (Thomas, Turgeon), 3:49 (pp). 2, New York, McLlwain 4 (Pilon, Krupp), 16:35. Penalties--Reekie, NY (roughing), 3:02; Krygier, Was, double minor (roughing), 3:02; Hogue, NY (cross-checking), 4:22; Thomas, NY, major-game misconduct (slashing), 6:56; Burridge, Was (tripping), 10:08.
Second period--3, New York, Ferraro 8 (Krupp, Flatley), 15:42. Penalties--Pivonka, Was (slashing), 6:14; New York bench, served by King (too many men), 18:20.
Third period--4, Washington, Ciccarelli 13 (Johansson, Burridge), 9:40 (pp). 5, Washington, Iafrate 7 (Cote, Khristich), 15:19 (pp). Penalties--McBain, NY (interference), 8:33; Reekie, NY (elbowing), 13:58; Iafrate, Was (roughing), 15:27.
Shots on goal--New York 10-7-6--23. Washington 10-14-10--34. Power-play opportunities--New York 1 of 4; Washington 2 of 5. Goalies--New York, Weeks, 4-2-1 (34 shots-32 saves). Washington, Beaupre, 6-4-0 (23-20). A--17,366. Referee--Ron Hoggarth. Linesmen--Ray Scapinello, Dan McCourt.