Rocked by loss, Capitals ponder future and trades

March 13, 1993|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

Washington Capitals captain Kevin Hatcher and goaltender Don Beaupre played pingpong after practice yesterday, but they were among the few to be found enjoying the day after the collapse in Philadelphia.

In a fight for their playoff life, the Capitals allowed a 2-0 lead to become a 5-2 deficit and eventually a 6-4 loss to the Flyers on Thursday night. It was so frustrating that coach Terry Murray left the Spectrum without talking to reporters.

"It wasn't that there was nothing to say," Murray said yesterday. "I was afraid there was too much to say. From the high level of the first period to the level of the second, there is no question that is the biggest swing of play in the time I've been coaching."

The tough part for the Capitals to digest is that it wasn't just another game. It came with just 17 more games left and in a tight Patrick Division race for playoff spots.

"I can't just say eliminate it," said Murray, whose team plays host to the New York Rangers in a second-place shootout tonight. "I have to have some conclusions. It's tough. It was just a mental collapse. The decisions being made were poor decisions in most cases."

The collapse had many players walking softly. The Capitals have been investigating trades for a goal-scorer for some time.

The NHL trading deadline, set for next Saturday, may be changed to March 22. A vote on whether to change the deadline was taken yesterday by the league's board of governors, but the results will not be released until Monday.

"My philosophy is you can't worry about what's not in your hands," said Hatcher. "We have to worry about what is in our hands, and that's making the playoffs."

Murray said he does not want his team to panic, but he would like to see a sense of urgency.

"I don't want us to play scared," he said. "If you do that, you lose focus on the issue. We've got to play together as a team."

* Reggie Savage has told Capitals general manager David Poile he will not accept a two-week reconditioning assignment to Baltimore.

"They told me during the All-Star break that I was up here to stay for the rest of the season," Savage said yesterday. "So that made my decision easy. My thinking is that there are only 17 games left before the playoffs and someone might go down or get sick and I'll be right here to contribute . . . I've worked hard to be here . . . I'd like to play, but if being around means sitting and watching games, I'll sit. It's up to the coach."

Yesterday, Murray was not understanding of Savage's decision and said he did not expect the forward to play tonight.

Capitals tonight

Opponent: New York Rangers

Site: Capital Centre

Time: 7:40

Tickets available: 1,500

Tickets note: The Capitals plan to announce a ticket exchange policy in the event of a major snowfall today. Club officials advise PTC fans with unused tickets for tonight's game to retain them for later exchange.

TV: HTS

Radio: WMAL (630 AM)

Outlook: The Capitals and Rangers are tied for second place in the Patrick Division, where four teams are within three points of each other for three playoff spots. Tonight, the Rangers, who are 6-2-1 in their past nine games, face a Capitals team that has a lot to prove. Washington collapsed in the second period and lost to the division's last-place team, Philadelphia, 6-4, Thursday night. The Rangers have great confidence. D Brian Leetch returned to the lineup Tuesday and in two games has two assists, and G John Vanbiesbrouck is 6-1-1 in his past eight with a 2.35 goals-against average. Adam Graves has 11 points in 15 games and Mark Messier has 10 points in his past 11. The only player missing for New York is Jay Wells (right knee). Washington continues without Randy Burridge (knee surgery).

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