Defense, special teams take spotlight for Capitals Doctors to examine Cote today

October 19, 1992|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

The Washington Capitals have a mini-winning streak. Afte beating the Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres over the weekend, the Capitals are 3-3 and fifth in the Patrick Division.

Beating expansion Ottawa, 5-1, Friday lifted a lot of spirits because it broke a three-game losing streak, but beating the high-scoring Sabres, 6-4, Saturday was the team's most impressive performance this season.

Today, the team could get some more good news when defenseman Sylvain Cote is examined by team doctors. Cote, who had his best season last year, suffered a broken left hand just before the season. He has been practicing with the team the past two weeks with his hand in a cast. Coach Terry Murray said yesterday that he hopes Cote will be ready to return soon.

The Caps have today off before preparing for a trip to Madison Square Garden on Wednesday for a Patrick Division rematch with the New York Rangers. The Rangers were one of three division rivals to beat the Capitals by 4-2 last week.

"We've got to forget the three straight losses and leave them behind us," said Murray. "I think we showed a big step in the right direction [Saturday]. We simply went out and ground it out and mucked it out.

"All four of our lines contributed, and we also got great play from [goalie Don] Beaupre and all of the defensemen. It certainly was a team win and it came . . . against a team with great fire power. To hold a team time after time like that says something. We did a great job killing penalties and scoring on the power play."

The Caps were 3-for-5 on the power play Friday and 2-for-3 Saturday. But they gave up a short-handed goal, when defenseman Kevin Hatcher was caught from behind and his attempted across-the-ice pass picked off to set up a Buffalo goal Pat LaFontaine.

The Sabres also got goals from Yuri Khmylev and Randy Wood, but Buffalo was held in check all night by the Capitals' inspired defense. The Caps allowed Buffalo, the NHL's goal-scoring leader, 21 shots, 17.4 below its average.

The Caps were led by Peter Bondra's two goals. One of those goals tied the game at 3 with 11:31 gone in the second period. The other, which gave the Caps a 5-3 edge with 3:51 to play, turned out to be the game-winner.

But Bondra, the team's leading scorer with eight points (five goals, three assists), did not want to take too much credit for his effort.

"We played better defensively. Everybody is responsible," he said. "My line, with Mike Ridley, played very well and we showed good stuff on the power play."

The Capitals had good stuff, period.

Also scoring were Dale Hunter, Pat Elynuik, Paul MacDermid and Ridley, who scored the Caps' last goal Saturday into an empty net with one second to play.

"We went all [training] camp and never really had our set team play together," said defenseman Al Iafrate, when asked why everything is suddenly working so well. "There were always seven or eight different guys who were regulars last year, sitting out. Now, the last six games we've all played together and it shows -- you can never be good enough or work hard enough -- but we've started to adjust."

* The Capitals have returned right wing Reggie Savage and defenseman Bob Babcock to the Skipjacks.

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