Caps wrap up Rangers, await Islanders Regular season ends with 4-2 win

April 17, 1993|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

LANDOVER -- The Washington Capitals couldn't have been happier with the results last night.

They beat the New York Rangers, 4-2, to wrap up the regular season, and the New York Islanders beat the New Jersey Devils, 8-5, to move into third place in the Patrick Division and set up a best-of-seven series with the Capitals in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

"If there was a preference, it was to play the Islanders," Washington coach Terry Murray said. "We match up better against them than anyone else in the division. I don't know why. But it will be an interesting series."

Washington will play host to the Islanders at the Capital Centre at 7:10 p.m. tomorrow in the first game. Game 2 will be at 7:30 p.m. here Tuesday.

Then the series moves to Long Island for games 3 and 4 Thursday and Saturday, April 24. Games 5, 6 and 7, if needed, will alternate between the sites until a winner is determined.

Last night the Islanders had to win their game against New Jersey to finish in third place. Pierre Turgeon, who has led them all season, led them again with three goals.

The best news for the Islanders is that they have avoided a first-round matchup with Patrick Division-leader Pittsburgh Penguins.

Washington won the regular-season series with the Islanders, 4-3. But whether that is good news for the Capitals remains to be seen, given each team won all of its games on the road.

"That's true," Washington's leading scorer Peter Bondra said.

"But this is the playoffs now, and we will win all our games at home."

Washington brought an end to the regular season on a positive note by taking advantage of the distracted Rangers.

The Capitals stretched their winning streak to three, and the Rangers wrapped up their season of discontent with a seven-game losing streak.

The Rangers went from finishing first in the Patrick Division in the regular season last season to finishing last in the division this season.

Last night, while putting out some effort, they were apparently playing out the string for interim coach Ron Smith, who is expected to be replaced by Mike Keenan today.

Washington scored in each period, and goalie Don Beaupre held the Rangers to two goals in his first start in three games.

The veteran Capitals goalie has been under pressure from backup Rick Tabaracci for No. 1 status going into post-season.

Tabaracci started against the Rangers on Wednesday, in a game Washington needed to win to clinch second place in the division, and responded with a 2-0 shutout. It was his second shutout in five starts with the Capitals, and it put Beaupre on notice that the 24-year-old was up for the challenge.

Last night, Beaupre answered with a 32-save performance, further fueling the competition and complicating the starting goalie decision facing coach Terry Murray.

"I'll talk to both of them at practice [today] about who will start Sunday, and I'll make that decision public after practice," Murray said. "I have confidence in both of them, and I know either one of them will do a good job."

Capitals right wing Keith Jones scored with 17:11 left in the third period to give Washington a 3-1 advantage.

As 15,181 looked on, left wing Randy Burridge almost scored his first goal since returning from double knee surgery April 10.

Burridge skated past the front of the net as a shot by Kevin Hatcher bounced off his leg and into the net, with 11:32 left.

But review officials disallowed the goal, saying Burridge directed it into the net.

But Washington did get a fourth goal, with 1:05 to play, as Sylvain Cote took a pass from Dimitri Khristich and blasted it into the net for his 21st of the season.

The Rangers' Mike Gartner made it 4-2 with nine seconds left.

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