Caps sweat out 6-4 win over Ottawa Hatcher saves day, foe's road futility

January 24, 1993|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

LANDOVER -- Washington defenseman Kevin Hatcher isn't always the most appreciated player in the Capital Centre. But last night he was, as he saved the Capitals from what could have been an embarrassing loss.

The 17,793 fans here didn't expect to be sitting on the edge of their seats with less than a minute to play. Not when the Capitals were playing the Ottawa Senators, who hadn't won or tied a road game in 24 previous tries.

But this is the NHL, where fortunes change in the blink of an eye. Last night, the Caps seemed about to blink.

Only Hatcher wouldn't let them.

Washington won, 6-4, thanks to his two third-period goals and a timely -- if debatable -- stick save.

The victory keeps the Capitals' home unbeaten streak alive at 11 games, just one away from the team all-time record of 12. It also improves their overall record to 25-19-4.

Hatcher's second goal with 9.4 seconds left finally put the Senators away, but without the iffy play he made just before his first goal who knows who'd have been celebrating.

With 7:34 to go, Pat Elynuik scored to break a 3-3 tie. Just 36 seconds later, Hatcher scored. But in between Elynuik's goal and Hatcher's, Ottawa thought it had scored.

Moving the puck swiftly on the attack, Ottawa's Doug Smail took a shot. He thought it went over the goal line to tie the game.

Hatcher got his stick behind it, and quickly started a counter-attack that he ended by putting away a shot he had intended to be a pass.

"The puck was right on the line when I knocked it out," Hatcher said. "I yelled 'no goal' and headed the other way. I was probably one of the few people who knew it wasn't a goal."

Ottawa protested, claiming Smail had scored. If the protest had been upheld, Hatcher's goal would have been disallowed and the game would have been tied at 4.

"It would have been a very big two-goal swing," admitted Capitals coach Terry Murray.

The replay was inconclusive, showing Hatcher's stick deep inside the net, but Capitals goalie Jim Hrivnak's pads blocked the camera's view of the puck.

"The puck was on the line," said Hatcher, smiling. "That's my story and I'm sticking to it."

"That was as good a chance for victory on the road as we've had in a long time," said Ottawa goalie Peter Sidorkiewicz. "We just have to keep plugging and make some breaks for ourselves."

Ottawa (4-44-3) certainly tried. Hatcher admitted the Senators "took the game away from us at times" last night. And Capitals defender Sylvain Cote added Washington's defense played "awful."

And it did, except when it absolutely had to play well. With the game tied at 2, Ottawa was given a 5-on-3 power play. Murray sent Hatcher, Kelly Miller and Mike Ridley out to defend and the three of them played the entire two minutes without giving up even one good scoring chance.

"That turned out to be a big play," said Murray, who voiced his relief at being finished with Ottawa this season. "We tried to go end to end with them early and there was a lot of individual play that got us in trouble."

The Caps got on the scoreboard within the first 41 seconds on a sharply angled shot by Ridley. Ottawa matched the Caps at the 6:19 mark when a shot by Darren Rumble bounced in off the stick of defenseman Jason Woolley.

Another Ottawa goal, this one by Mike Peluso after a weak clearing pass by Ridley, made it 2-1 Senators at the end of the first.

Capitals forward Peter Bondra ended an eight-game goal-less streak to even the game at 2 with 6:57 gone in the second and defenseman Alan May gave the Caps a 3-2 lead with 1:57 left before intermission.

But the Senators wouldn't fold. With 4:21 gone in the third, Mark Freer tied the game at 3, setting up Hatcher for his game-saving heroics.

Ottawa 2 0 2 -- 4

Washington 1 2 3 -- 6

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