Quick as a wink, Penguins unwrap Capitals' seemingly safe 2-goal lead

January 27, 1993|By Bill Modoono | Bill Modoono,Contributing Writer

PITTSBURGH -- Things fell apart so quickly for the Washington Capitals last night, that when it was over, the hardest part was trying to remember how well they once had things wrapped up.

Let's see -- they had a two-goal lead; they stopped two Pittsburgh Penguins power plays; goalie Don Beaupre stopped a penalty shot. Surely, with Mario Lemieux out of the lineup and Caps nemesis Tom Barrasso absent from goal with the chickenpox, this was going to be Washington's night.

And then it all disappeared in a minute. Make that a minute and a half. The Penguins scored three goals in 91 seconds of the first period and rode that to a 6-3 win over Washington before 16,164 at the Civic Arena.

The victory was the Penguins' fourth in the five games they have played since Lemieux went public with the news of his Hodgkin's disease. Moreover, it extended Pittsburgh's lead over Washington in the Patrick Division to 16 points.

"If they keep playing the way they are now, they are going to put a lot of pressure on the rest of the division to catch them," said Capitals coach Terry Murray, whose team will play host to the Penguins Sunday afternoon at the Capital Centre.

If the Capitals had kept playing the way they started last night's game, they might have pressured the Penguins -- at least for one night. But two early goals by Dale Hunter (his 10th and 11th) were not enough to intimidate the Penguins, even with Lemieux's 104 points missing from the lineup.

Still, something was missing for the Penguins, especially when Jaromir Jagr was awarded his second career NHL penalty shot at 12:27 of the first period after Paul Cavallini dove at his feet on a breakaway and let go of his stick as he went down.

The sellout crowd was roused by the call, but Jagr inspired only yawns when he skated directly at Beaupre and then hit him in the stomach with the puck.

A few minutes later, however, the Caps were reeling.

The Penguins scored three goals -- two by Kevin Stevens -- in a

91-second interval beginning at 17:42 of the first period and took the game away, essentially for good.

"The penalty shot should have been a good thing for us, but it seemed to work the other way around," said Beaupre, who turned aside 20 of 26 shots. "We were taking it to them pretty good and then we sat back."

"Three goals in a minute kills you," said Capitals defenseman Kevin Hatcher. "After that, we didn't play responsible hockey."

After giving up the tying power-play goal to Dimitri Khristich at 1:25 of the second period, the Penguins assumed a defensive posture that frustrated the Caps.

Once again, it was a brief but effective scoring burst that did in Washington. This time Rick Tocchet knocked in a shot with his wrist directly in front of Beaupre in the final 25 seconds of the second period, and Shawn McEachern got his 21st goal of the season, 44 seconds into the final period.

Stevens completed his hat trick with an empty-net goal at 19:09. Stevens, the Penguins' high scorer with Lemieux out, now has 39 goals.

"Those three quick goals kind of deflated them," said Tocchet. "They didn't play their game after that."

Former Capital Larry Murphy had a goal and two assists for 801 career points, the eighth defenseman to reach that plateau.

The victory gave the Penguins 70 points in their first 50 games, a mark coach Scotty Bowman described as, "a heck of a record."

"We had to play consistently to get that record," said Bowman.

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