Reeling Capitals drop 4th in row in division Devils win, 5-3, clinch playoff spot

April 11, 1993|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

LANDOVER -- The Washington Capitals, once criticized for their inconsistency, are becoming ridiculously predictable. Night after night, game after game, they fall behind early, struggle to recover and wind up losing to a Patrick Division opponent.

What once was a fairly comfortable five-point lead over the third-place New Jersey Devils has been nibbled away.

The New York Rangers and Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers have all taken a bite. Last night, New Jersey helped itself with a 5-3 win to clinch a playoff spot.

And now the margin between second and third is one point with three games to play.

"That's been our focus, to try and catch Washington, so our job is not done yet," said New Jersey coach Herb Brooks.

But then, neither is Washington's.

"The spotlight is shining brightly on the loss column, no doubt about that," said Capitals coach Terry Murray. "The whole idea in the game is to win. It doesn't matter if you get 50 or 60 shots and hold the other team to 20. The bottom line is winning."

Washington, which was given a playoff spot Friday night when Pittsburgh beat the New York Rangers, tried to do something for itself last night.

The Capitals outshot the Devils 47-21. But by the end of the first period, New Jersey, on just five shots, had taken a 2-0 lead on a power-play goal by Scott Stevens and a goal by Bill Guerin.

The Capitals never recovered, though they kept the pressure on. Washington closed to 2-1 after the second period on a goal by Michal Pivonka.

And Washington captain Kevin Hatcher and Bobby Carpenter made things interesting with back-to-back power-play goals with and 2:15 to play in the third that brought the Caps to 4-3.

But two quick goals by Valeri Zelepukin and Stephane Richer within 29 seconds early in the third took care of Washington's first threat. And an open net score by Claude Lemieux with 44 seconds left wrapped it up.

This was Washington's fourth straight loss to Patrick Division teams and its 11th in its last 12 division games.

The Capitals were to practice this morning and then travel to Montreal for tomorrow's game with the Canadiens. Wednesday, they'll play the Rangers in New York for another shot at a Patrick Division win.

"I don't know if going to Montreal will be a relief," said Murray. "I didn't notice anyone gripping their sticks too tight. But if we get a couple points in Montreal, I might say yes."

NOTES: Peter Bondra was scratched from the lineup due to illness, Murray said. He could be back for tomorrow's game. . . . Defenseman Al Iafrate was forced to duck to avoid being hit by a puck and when he did so he felt "a twinge in his hamstring." Murray said he would be checked today.

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