Persistent Isles show Capitals they're in this for long haul

Phil Jackman

April 21, 1993|By Phil Jackman

LANDOVER -- Lay in the bread and milk, folks, it's NHL playof time and the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders are at it again!

With memories of their famed seventh-game battle that raged until nearly 2 a.m. on an Easter Sunday morning in 1987 still fairly fresh, the boys decided on a re-enactment last night, New York once again prevailing, 5-4, about 15 minutes into a fifth period of hockey.

As endings go, this was typical playoff fare, the score sheet saying Brian Mullen scored the winning goal while, actually, it was Ray Ferraro who "jabbed" the puck into the Washington goal.

But who cares? Certainly not Islanders goalie Glenn Healy, who said: "Beats me who scored. All I know is we're going home."

It would have bordered on criminal had the Capitals prevailed and gone up two games in this give-no-quarter, best-of-seven series.

The Isles scored the first, third, fifth and seventh goals during regulation play, meaning it was the Caps who repeatedly had to battle back for ties, the last one coming with less than three seconds remaining.

Imagine watching a victory slip away with just 2.6 seconds to go in regulation, only to be called upon to expend at least another week's worth of energy during the next hour or so.

"Before the start of the second overtime, we were all dragging a bit and we talked about how it would probably end the way it did, on a mad scramble in front of the net," said Ferraro. "It doesn't take much to end a game like that. When you get tired, mistakes happen, so you just shovel the puck on net and hope."

Following the script, that's what Isles captain Pat Flatley did as he and Ferraro were about to leave the ice on a line change when the latter noted Mullen was heading in hard and had drawn a bead on the Caps' goal. "Brian had the freshest legs out there, having just come on," said Ferraro, "so I turned around and headed for the net."

Rick Tabaracci stopped Mullen's effort from off to his left, but was sent sprawling. "When I got there, the puck was laying on his pads," said Ferraro. "I jabbed at it. It popped up in the air. My eyes got real big as I pushed for it to bounce forward, not back."

Time seemed to stand still before referee Paul Devorski and a linesman signaled the puck was in the net. Capitals coach Terry Murray didn't make a big deal out of it, but he did say, "I thought there should have been a whistle on the play; Tabaracci seemed to have it quite a while."

The goaltender agreed wholeheartedly.

"There seems to be a lot of these games in Washington," Isles coach Al Arbour quipped. "That's why it doesn't seem to matter where the two teams play. We could be in Alaska and what it comes down to is who wins those little [individual] battles at the end."

On this night, the Islanders seemed to win them all, but were never to draw clear of the Caps and the continued brilliant play of Dale Hunter. After leading Washington to a 3-1 win in the series opener Sunday with a pair of goals, Hunter turned in a hat trick last night, the last one just beating the buzzer at the end of regulation. Five goals in two games; it took Dale 17 games at the end of the regular campaign to match it.

"They got a couple of breaks early and we got one at the end," said Arbour, who had to be referring to Hunter's first two goals. The first hit a post and caromed in off the goalie's skate. The second bounced in off the back of a defenseman's leg.

Despite the bad luck and the fact they had been remiss in not cashing in on numerous solid opportunities to score earlier, the Islanders appeared headed for victory after Ferraro scored with five minutes remaining in the third period. They were keeping the Caps at bay until, at about the three-minute mark, defenseman Rich Pilon was whistled off for high-sticking, a five-minute major penalty meaning he was through for the evening.

Besides allowing for Hunter's tying goal at the end, it also placed New York in the dubious position of having to kill off a power play at the beginning of the first overtime.

"I thought we'd hold together, because we have all season, especially over the last 30 games," said Arbour.

The coach mentioned that he thought about "sending out for oxygen for a couple of my players," but Ferraro was not among them.

"I'm in midseason form," kidded the player. "Reason for that is I've only played about 40 games or so [46 actually]." Ferraro missed Dec. 10 to March 9, a total of 36 games, when he suffered a broken right fibula.

"I'm fresh, although I do feel as if I got dragged around the block 30 times. You know, this feels just like senior hockey and we drew 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. ice time," said Ferraro.

Winners makes jokes; losers say, "deal."

Games 3 and 4 are tomorrow and Saturday evenings at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island. The Caps won all four games there during the season.

N.Y. Islanders 1 1 2 0 1 -- 5

Washington .. .0 2 2 0 0 -- 4

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