Caps rally to tie up Panthers

December 29, 1993|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

LANDOVER -- The snow stood in the way of most of the audience last night, but it was two stubborn goaltenders who would not give up the fight and two defenses that would not fold that stood in the way of either team getting a victory.

The Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers played to a grueling 3-3 tie, as Capitals goaltender Don Beaupre stopped 18 of 21 shots by the Panthers and Florida's John Vanbiesbrouck stopped 43 of 46 shots by the Caps.

"It's a good tie, a good point," said Capitals coach Terry Murray after his team maintained its one-point lead over the Panthers in the Atlantic Division. "But I'm not satisfied. This is one of the games we've got to win . . . but it was an important point in the standings. No one gains anything tonight."

A crowd of 13,300 was expected for this game, before snow limited attendance to 4,802, the second smallest in Capitals history.

"It was a tough game to play and a tough game to watch," said Beaupre. "Especially the second period, after giving up that goal that put us down 3-1. But then we started to score."

The Capitals had gotten on the scoreboard just 1:28 into the middle period, when Keith Jones was able to follow up a rebound off a shot by Sylvain Cote. It was Jones' 10th goal of the season and closed the margin to 2-1.

And then came the goal that Beaupre lamented. At the 11:45 mark, Capitals defenseman Enrico Ciccone lost control of the puck in his end as the team was attempting a line change.

The Panthers' Mike Foligno took the puck, passed cross ice to Mike Hough and the left wing nailed it high over Beaupre's left shoulder.

But then Vanbiesbrouck made a rare mistake.

With 5:26 left, the Capitals would have been called for icing, but Vanbiesbrouck chased the puck into the right corner and sent a clearing pass back to mid-ice. The net was open -- and the puck landed on rookie John Slaney's stick.

"I saw it coming and I knew we were onside," said Slaney. "I fired. I didn't know if it was going in the net."

Only the night before, Slaney won the Capitals' most-accurate shooter contest. On this play, he backed it up.

His slap shot was dead center into the deserted net. The Caps were back in it, 3-2.

"Night after night, Vanbiesbrouck never lets up," said Florida right wing Scott Mellanby.

"He was unbelievable tonight. So it's disappointing letting them come back, but when you have 40-50 shots, you've got to feel the guys battled hard."

Vanbiesbrouck, who was not in a happy mood after this game, was not so generous with his teammates.

"Washington really brought the puck harder in the second and third," he said. "It was fortunate for us, that I was able to keep it out."

He couldn't keep out Dimitri Khristich's 18th goal of the season, that tied the game 42 seconds after Slaney scored.

But in the third period, he was worth his weight.

With 6:13 to play, Michal Pivonka slipped Randy Burridge a perfect pass that should have caught Vanbiesbrouck off guard.

But in the instant it took Burridge to get his stick on the puck, Vanbiesbrouck had recovered enough to hurl his body to the ice and sit on the puck before it crossed the goal line.

It was as close as the Capitals would come to winning all night.

Florida's first two goals came in the first period.

The first 54 seconds into the game on a slap shot by Bill Lindsay. The second came at 9:15, Dave Lowry scored for the 2-0 lead.

"In the last 50 minutes we played well, getting the puck to their net," said Murray. "That's the kind of play we needed in the first 10 minutes. You can't get yourself behind the eight ball like that."

NOTES: Todd Krygier suffered a second-degree shoulder separation in the first period and he'll be out at least a week. . . . Fans who showed up last night received free parking and free programs and the promise of a free ticket to a future game. Fans who had tickets and didn't show up, can exchange them for tickets to one of three games: Jan. 1 vs. Tampa Bay, Jan. 11 vs. Toronto or Jan. 14 vs. New Jersey. Fans can exchange their tickets in person game day at the box office or anyone wishing to exchange for the Jan. 11 or 14 games can also exchange them through the mail. . . . Before last night's game, Khristich was presented the Alka-Seltzer Plus award for having the best plus/minus rating on the team last season, a plus-14.

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