Caps have banner night in Montreal, top Stanley Cup champs

December 12, 1993|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

MONTREAL -- Maybe the Washington Capitals were inspired by all the Stanley Cup banners hanging from the rafters at the Montreal Forum. Or maybe they just decided to play to their potential.

Last night, in front of a partisan crowd of 16,495, Washington turned in its second consecutive strong performance against a good team, beating the Stanley Cup champions, 5-3, in another big Eastern Conference game. On Thursday, the Capitals beat the Flyers, 4-2, in Philadelphia.

The winning goal came with 7:25 gone in the third period, when Washington defenseman Kevin Hatcher scored the Capitals' third power-play goal of the night for a 4-3 lead. Capitals forward Michal Pivonka scored the final goal into an open net with three seconds left.

"Our power play has been struggling from the very first day of this season," said Washington coach Terry Murray, whose team ranked 20th in the NHL with a man advantage going into last night. "But you have to have some faith that it will turn around. Our teams have always been good on the power play in the past and now the talk, the [looking at] tape and the meetings are paying off. We picked a very timely situation to get it going here."

The Capitals, now within one game of .500 at 13-14-2, moved past the idle Florida Panthers into fourth in the Atlantic Division, but are still only ninth in the Eastern Conference. The top eight teams in each conference qualify for postseason play.

Capitals goalie Don Beaupre won for the second straight game, too, by making the big saves when they counted most in the closing minutes of the third period to improve his own standing to 7-5-1.

"We talked after the Philadelphia game about how we play well one game and then come out flat the next," said Beaupre, who had 21 saves. "It has been our biggest weakness. But we came out strong for the second straight night. You've got to hope this is the turnaround we've been waiting for."

Washington will try to make it three straight in the Eastern Conference tomorrow night in Quebec. The Nordiques are a point ahead of the Capitals in the conference race.

This was a night when players on both sides had the chance to be a hero. The game opened with Mike Ridley juking a Montreal defenseman and going in one-on-one against Patrick Roy, who came into the game with the NHL's second-best goals-against average, 2.36.

He turned back Ridley, but the Capitals would eventually find the range.

"He made that stop on Rids look easy," said Beaupre. "But we played around him. We went for the rebounds and got to the net. When you get to the net like we did tonight, it makes it hard to collect every rebound."

L Beaupre knows. He was under attack much of the evening, too.

Shortly after Craig Berube scored to tie the game at 1 with 11:28 gone, a rebound bounced off Beaupre's glove and he could only watch as Vincent Damphousse swatted the puck into the net at 12:09.

"Roy made tremendous stops and so did Donnie," said Murray. "This game could have turned several different times for both teams."

It did turn on power-play goals by Randy Burridge (15:23 of the first period) and Keith Jones (3:09 of the second) that put the Capitals in front.

"We outplayed Montreal tonight and we deserved to win," said Washington defenseman Al Iafrate, who had assists on both power-play goals.

"It's early in the season, but we've got our backs to the wall. If the playoffs started tomorrow, we wouldn't be in them and everyone knows winning gets harder than ever after December. We've got to get going."

Washington also benefited from the play of rookies Kevin Kaminski and John Slaney.

Kaminski recorded his first point, assisting on Berube's goal. Murray said it was a just reward after a strong showing in the win over the Flyers.

And Slaney, who was playing in his first game, showed a desire to get his body in the middle of the Montreal passing lanes and take a hit.

"Slaney showed poise and patience and demonstrated that he sees the ice well," said Murray.

Montreal got the first goal of the night from Brian Bellows with 6:03 gone in the opening period.

After Damphousse gave the Canadians a 2-1 lead with 12:09 gone in the period, Montreal was silenced until the 18:42 mark of the second.

That's when Gilbert Dionne got the puck to Peter Popovic for his first NHL goal and tied the game at 3.

Washington 2 1 2 -- 5

Montreal ..2 1 0 -- 3

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