Caps keep stumbling in Patrick Flyers win, 4-3

no playoff clinching

April 09, 1993|By Jack McCaffery | Jack McCaffery,Contributing Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- On the road map that the NHL unfolds toward the Stanley Cup, the first challenge is to find a way out of the neighborhood.

Once again last night, the Washington Capitals were reminded of the difficulty of that journey's first leg.

In falling to the Philadelphia Flyers, 4-3, at the Spectrum, the Capitals continued to be stumped by a Patrick Division puzzle.

Though otherwise enjoying a fine season -- second place in the tough Patrick pack -- the Caps have been all but inept against divisional opponents.

Despite goals by Sylvain Cote, Dale Hunter and Keith Jones, the Caps fell to the Flyers for the fifth time in seven games (1-5-1). The Caps have lost 10 of their past 11 Patrick Division games -- which should be alarming as they near a playoff spot in a system where a team must first play its way out of the division.

The Capitals are 11-21-2 against the Patrick Division.

"We have to play better, no question about it," Capitals coach Terry Murray said. "Our record in this division is not good. We must clean that up. And real soon."

The loss prevented the Caps from officially clinching the playoff slot of which they are virtually assured.

With four games left, the Caps still need one victory -- or one loss by the New York Rangers -- to gain a postseason berth.

Philadelphia, which carried only the slimmest of mathematical hopes for a playoff bid, broke open a 1-1 game by outscoring the Caps, 3-2, in the final period.

By then, Washington had earned history, if nothing else. Cote's goal with 15 seconds left in the second was his 20th, making the Caps the first team in NHL history with three defensemen with at least 20 goals. Kevin Hatcher has 31 goals, Al Iafrate 25.

But the Caps found it difficult to celebrate.

"We knew the importance of this game," Hatcher said. "We knew there was a playoff berth at stake. We knew what was riding on this game. But to come out in the first period and be as flat as we were tonight, well, there is no excuse."

Philadelphia had the first prime chance to break a 1-1 tie within the first two minutes of the third period. Eric Lindros, who already had scored his 40th goal of the season, literally tipped Rick Tabaracci over backward with a 30-foot blast on a semi-breakaway. But Kevin Dineen could not convert a rebound.

The Flyers did carry that momentum, however, and took a 2-1 lead three minutes into the third. Andrei Lomakin scored the go-ahead goal on a 20-foot slap shot high to Tabaracci's left-hand side, after taking a cross-ice pass from Keith Acton.

With 12:47 remaining, Philadelphia took a 3-1 lead -- this time for keeps. Dineen created the play, sneaking between Calle Johansson and Hatcher, turning them around and making them unaware of Garry Galley arriving on the right side. Dineen found Galley, who found the net.

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