LANDOVER -- Before last night's game, veteran center Dale Hunter said the three most important aspects of this NHL playoff series with the New York Islanders were sticking to the game plan, patience and executing.
Last night, in Game 1 of this best-of-seven Patrick Divisioplayoff series, Hunter followed his direction to perfection. His two goals in the third period made the difference for Washington, which emerged with a 3-1 victory.
The win gives Washington a 1-0 lead in the series and its firshome-ice victory against the Islanders in four tries this season.
The two teams will meet here tomorrow for the Game 2 rematch at 7:30 p.m.
With Washington trailing 1-0 in the third period, Hunter scoretwice to give the Capitals a 2-1 lead with 12:59 to play.
The two goals within 3:43 changed the atmosphere and thdirection of the game.
The Islanders had played a tight-checking defense and rose tevery occasion in the first two periods. But with 3:18 gone in the third, Todd Krygier took a shot that rebounded to Pat Elynuik, who tipped it in front of the net, where Hunter skated in and lifted it over goalie Glenn Healy.
Then, 3:43 later, while the Islanders were trying to kill a poweplay, Hunter was able to elude defenseman Vladimir Malakhov and again lift the puck high into the far corner of the net past Healy.
Dimitri Khristich got his stick on a slap shot by Michal Pivonkand directed it into the net with 4:35 left, to give the Capitals breathing room at 3-1.
"We've got to play game," Hunter said. "We've got to be patienand execute, because the team that is going to win this series is going to be the one who executes the best."
Washington found it difficult to execute early on the offensivend, but goalie Rick Tabaracci, who was given the start over veteran Don Beaupre last night, continued to excel.
The 24-year-old gave up one goal in the first period to RaFerraro, who executed perfectly on a two-on-one breakaway. But after that the Islanders took their best shots without success, as Tabaracci wrapped up the evening with 22 saves.
Healy, 2-6 in five previous playoff series, sealed the net against the Capitals through the second period.
Healy made 18 saves and received strong support from hiteammates, who played the Capitals so close they could have been in the same uniform.
When Tabaracci registered his first shutout with Washington few weeks ago, he said a goalie has to have "luck on his side" to make it through three scoreless periods.
Through two periods last night, Healy had some of that tooPivonka was given a terrific setup pass by Peter Bondra with 12:53 to play in the second, but missed everything from three feet in front of the net.
After Healy made a save on a shot by Al Iafrate, at 12:32, Pivonkhit the crossbar and the puck bounced harmlessly away.
Could it get more frustrating? Indeed. The Capitals had five-on-three opportunity for 55 seconds starting at 9:56. Pivonka missed at the far post -- three times. Hunter, positioned in the crease, was looking the wrong way when Khristich passed him the puck. Khristich got the puck back and missed.
And then the final struggle came with 3:42 to go. Hunter took shot that Healy went to the ice to block. He got a piece of it. The puck rested between his body and the net for a seemingly long moment.
Elynuik tried to get his stick on it, but couldn't. Islanderdefenseman Darius Kasparaitis threw a body block between the net and the puck, and play was finally whistled dead with nearly every player on the ice piled in front of the goal.
"Sometimes we get carried away at home," said the CapitalsAlan May before the game. "Sometimes, our individual players try to do too much. We need to be patient and disciplined. We've made a hell of a lot of mistakes at home."
The Islanders, who won here three times in the regular season, continued their dominance of the Capitals in the first period. Their defense concentrated on closing down Washington's offense, and looked plenty capable of winning again.
Tabaracci, who was chosen to start over veteran Don Beauprelooked good in the early going. He stopped 10 shots in the first period, but had little chance for a save with 5:56 gone in the game.
Islanders defenseman Dennis Vaske started a fast break that resulted in a two-on-one opportunity for Ferraro. Ferraro had beaten Capitals defenseman Paul Cavallini down the ice, leaving Sylvain Cote to defend his man, Benoit Hogue and Ferraro.
When Cote went for the fake to Hogue, Ferraro had a clear shoon Tabaracci, and he didn't miss.
For Ferraro, it was his first playoff goal since 1988-89, when hscored twice as a Hartford Whaler.
Washington got only six shots in the period. It took 8:32 to gethe first one off the stick of Kelly Miller and three others came on Washington's lone power play.
Khristich had the best opportunity of the period, when he got thpuck on the power play right in front of the net, but shot right into the feet of Healy.
Miller got another hard shot off, but it missed, and the Caps' finaeffort was a mid-ice shot by Kevin Hatcher designed to run off the final seconds of the period.
CAPS VS. ISLANDERS
/ (Capitals lead series, 1-0) Results
Capitals 3, Islanders 1
Date Time Site
Tomorrow 7:30 Capital Centre
Thursday 7:30 N.Y.I.
Saturday 7:30 N.Y.I.
April 26 7:30 Capital Centre*
April 28 7:30 N.Y.I.*
April 30 8 Capital Centre*
* - if necessary