Offensive defense boosts Capitals, 8-4 Cote, Hatcher lead rout of Rangers

December 05, 1992|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

LANDOVER -- The Washington Capitals put an offensive twis on a defensive attack last night and thoroughly outplayed the New York Rangers.

With defensemen Sylvain Cote and Kevin Hatcher each scoring twice, the Caps skated to an 8-4 victory at the Capital Centre that was much more lopsided than the final score.

"This will be a tough act to follow," said Hatcher, the acting captain. "We're moving right along now."

In one evening, the Caps' defense piled up six goals and five assists while killing all five New York power-play opportunities.

"Our whole game plan was to stop their defense," said New York coach Roger Neilson. "We sure weren't able to do that tonight."

The victory gives the Caps a 12-13-2 record and puts them within a point of second place in the Patrick Division going into tonight's game at Nassau Coliseum against the New York Islanders.

"We've won three of our last four in the division and I think our confidence level individually and as a team is getting higher," said Capitals coach Terry Murray, whose team began the year 0-7 in the Patrick. "But it's very important not to stub our toe now."

One of the major reasons for the turnaround that has seen Washington go 5-1-1 in its past seven games is undoubtedly the play of the defense.

After last night's performance, the Caps' defensemen are tops in the NHL in scoring with 91 points in 27 games.

"We did it the right way tonight," said Hatcher. "We started by playing good defense in our own end and then we picked our own spots to jump up. I don't like to use the word confidence, but we've got our injured players back and we're playing up to our potential. We weren't doing that earlier.

"We've done a real good job of pulling together as a team and getting out of the hole we dug."

The Caps started by scoring the first four goals of the game. Defensemen Paul Cavallini and Cote provided the first two goals and forward Dimitri Khristich scored the third, all in the first period.

Then it was Cote again, showing the Caps would not play favorites when it came to blistering goalkeepers. After the Caps' third goal, Neilson pulled starter Mike Richter and sent John Vanbiesbrouck in. And it was Vanbiesbrouck who was rocked for the Caps' last five goals.

Defenseman Al Iafrate kept his point-scoring streak going when he scored a brilliant power-play goal in the second period, in between Hatcher's two scores.

Caps goalie Don Beaupre released the puck to Hatcher, who fed the sprinting Iafrate. When the 6-foot-4 defenseman crossed the blue line he unleased a slap shot past the helpless Vanbiesbrouck for a 6-1 Caps lead.

Hatcher split his goals over the second and third periods, scoring on a power play in the second and then following up with an even-strength goal in the third.

The Caps scored on four of 11 power-play opportunities.

Forward Pat Elynuik, who assisted on Hatcher's second goal, provided Washington's final goal, which put the Rangers down 8-2.

Then New York showed it wasn't going to be totally embarrassed. Rangers Tony Amonte and Darren Turcotte scored within 14 seconds of each other in the final 1:36.

"It was nice to have a little cushion and win going away once in a while," said Beaupre, who made 33 saves and won for the second time in two games. "It's good to be on a little bit of a roll. It's a confidence builder for me and for the team in me. But maybe I'm on a roll because the team is."

The 16,581 fans were witness to how times have changed since the first month of the season. Early on, it was the Rangers who were playing the better hockey, while the Caps struggled.

Now these two teams are still going in opposite directions, only now it is Washington on the climb, while New York, 3-7-1 in its last 11, struggles to find a way out of the doldrums.

"The Caps are on their game, but we should be on ours too," Neilson said.

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