Caps win, 6-4, to stay alive Islanders return home with 3-2 lead in series

April 27, 1993|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

LANDOVER -- No lead is safe against the New York Islanders. That's clear enough after another spectacular rally that nearly ended the Washington Capitals' season.

But the Capitals are still alive today, thanks to clutch saves by Don Beaupre, an empty-net goal by Dale Hunter and a game clock that ran out with the Capitals leading, 6-4.

The best-of-seven NHL Patrick Division semifinal series returns tomorrow to Nassau Coliseum for Game 6, with the Islanders leading, three games to two.

"The ending was scary," said Capitals coach Terry Murray. "But the bottom line is that we won. I'm hoping the open-net goal can be something we can rally around."

Washington changed goaltenders and seemed to have this game in hand with a 5-1 lead with 11:11 left, as Al Iafrate collected his first career hat trick.

But then the Islanders' Ray Ferraro (four goals) tried to drag his team to victory, with a third-period hat trick covering eight minutes that brought the score to 5-4, before Hunter found the open net with 7.6 seconds to play.

"I think the guy carries the puck around in his hip pocket," said Capitals defenseman Kevin Hatcher, who then made the understatement of the playoffs: "We might have to watch him a lot closer next time."

Ferraro has eight goals in this series, including two game-winners, and a game-winning assist.

"We talked about carrying the puck and playing with confidence," said Murray. "We talked about it before the game and I'm going to have to talk about it again. We simply stopped showing confidence with the puck and they just threw everything at us."

The 16,823 fans in the Capital Center were treated to 50 minutes of sound hockey, before the Islanders demonstrated the same kind of clawing, never-say-die grit that has earned them the advantage in this series.

The Caps could not have survived with out Iafrate's first-ever career hat trick and the overall offensive performance of the much-criticized defense, which accounted for four of Washington's six goals.

Iafrate scored back-to-back in the first period for a 3-1 lead, and then scored his third at 11:11 of the third period for a 5-1 advantage.

In the meantime, Beaupre made 28 saves, including point-blank numbers against Tom Kurvers, Pierre Turgeon and Steve Thomas in the closing period, and found out what goalie Rick Tabaracci has been going through.

Beaupre got the start last night, despite impressive

TC performances in each of the previous four games by Tabaracci.

Murray made the change, hoping it would change the team's chemistry, and it did.

While Washington could not find a winning goal for Tabaracci in three of the four games he played, they found it last night -- though Ferraro made their hearts pound in the last 10 minutes with three of his four goals.

But even his hat trick couldn't stop Washington in this one.

Instead of standing around in the last five minutes of the third period, the Capitals kept coming. And though they could not expand on their 5-3 lead, neither did they fall back into a defensive shell.

Instead of sitting back, trying to protect a 3-1 lead, the Capitals continued to advance their case in the second period.

With 7:18 left in the period, the Capitals' hustle finally paid off. Dimitri Khristich battled through the Islanders' defense along the boards, and managed to get the puck out to Hunter on the left side. Hunter was unguarded when he attempted a pass to Pat Elynuik in the Islanders' crease. The puck found the back of Elynuik's skate and bounced past New York defenseman Dennis Vaske and goalie Mark Fitzpatrick to make it 4-1.

Fitzpatrick took over in the net at the start of the second period after Glenn Healy, who had started every game in this series, gave up three first-period goals.

The Capitals carried their 4-1 lead into the third, thanks to a continued solid effort by Beaupre, who made 17 saves in the first two periods, including one on a hard shot by Brian Mullen with 1:02 left in the second that bounced off his face guard.

Capitals fans must have wondered whether the first period was a set up. Certainly, the Capitals had seen a 3-1 score before. In fact, the Capitals have held that lead in every game in this series, only to see the Islanders come roaring back for victory in all but Game 1.

But when Capitals defensemen Sylvain Cote (one goal) and Iafrate (two goals) combined to give Washington that advantage with 3:19 to play in the first period, it marked the first time the Capitals had pounced so strongly, so quickly.

Cote scored with just 1:15 gone, when Steve Konowalchuk won the faceoff in the right circle, sending the puck to the Capitals defender for a 1-0 lead.

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