Surging Caps slip by Islanders 5-3 victory moves Washington to .500

December 06, 1992|By Mike Tully | Mike Tully,Contributing Writer

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- When Washington Capitals defenseman Kevin Hatcher broke into the New York Islanders' zone late in the third period last night, teammate Kelly Miller yelled, "We're all comin'!"

He was right in more ways than one. Not only did the Caps swarm toward the net for the game-winner in a 5-3 victory, they are coming on strong in the Patrick Division.

Miller's goal, combined with standout performances by Mike Ridley and Al Iafrate, extended Washington's winning streak to three games. The Caps, 6-1-1 in their past eight, improved to .500 (13-13-2) and moved into second place, one point ahead of the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers.

"We're playing smart. We're playing the body," said Miller, whose 100th goal as a Cap broke a 3-3 tie with 5:21 remaining. "We had injuries, we had new faces, but the chemistry has developed."

Ridley had two goals and two assists, and Iafrate had two goals and an assist. Iafrate has seven goals and eight assists in his past six games.

By completing a four-point weekend sweep of Patrick Division foes, the Caps raised their road record to 10-5-2.

On the game-winner, Miller finished a crisp passing sequence that began with Hatcher leading the rush. Hatcher passed to Ridley on the left side. Ridley slid it over to Miller, whose drive from the lower circle beat goalie Mark Fitzpatrick low to the glove side.

"I knew Kelly was there," said Ridley. "The goalie had to face me."

"I just banged it low," Miller said.

Two minutes later, goalie Jim Hrivnak preserved the victory by stopping a drive from David Volek from the left circle. Then, with 7.2 seconds left, Ridley scored into an empty net, clinching a win that bore little resemblance to the 8-4 blowout of the Rangers on Friday night.

Miller's goal was sweeter because it came after the Caps had blown a 3-1 lead. Earler in the season, they had been blowing leads.

"Three weeks ago we were building leads and sitting back and becoming unaggressive," Ridley said. "I think we've turned the corner."

Iafrate scored his seventh and eighth goals of the season to help the Caps build a 3-1 margin just 21:29 into the game, but Brad Dalgarno got one back just 16 seconds later, and Derek King's power-play score in the third period produced a tie that prevailed for most of the period.

With the Caps holding a 3-2 lead in the third, Hatcher was called for interfering with King at 1:22. King whipped a 40-footer past Hrivnak.

The Caps allowed the first goal but they still managed to build a 3-2 lead through a penalty-filled first 40 minutes. Islanders scoring leader Pierre Turgeon carried down the right side and centered for Claude Loiselle, who scored his fourth goal at 10:48 of the first period.

A subtle pass by Sylvain Cote set up the tying goal at 14:01. Cote received a pass near the blue line, but found his shooting angle blocked. He touched the puck to Iafrate, whose 55-foot blast rang off the post and into the net for his seventh goal.

A poor clear by Islanders defenseman Rich Pilon allowed the Caps to take a 2-1 lead on the power play. Pilon seemed to have time for an easy clear, but Pat Elynuik deflected it to Peter Bondra inside the line. Bondra tipped it ahead to Ridley, who deked Fitzpatrick before tucking the puck around him at 18:47.

Washington 2 1 2 -- 5

N.Y. Islanders 1 1 1 -- 3

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