Caps come up short to Bruins

January 26, 1994|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

LANDOVER -- This is not the post-All-Star break beginning the Washington Capitals had in mind. This is the time when this team is supposed to take off and blast its way into the NHL's postseason party.

But last night, against the Boston Bruins it was an all too familiar story, as Boston produced a 3-1 victory in front of an inspiring goaltending performance by newly acquired Vincent Riendeau.

Riendeau, 27, had not played in an NHL game in three months until last night, but the Capitals couldn't beat him.

Riendeau had Washington sweating a shutout until rookie Pat Peake taped one in with 9:02 to play in the third period. Riendeau finished with 29 saves on 30 shots.

Boston acquired Riendeau, who had a 2-4 record with a 4.00 goals-against average, from Detroit on Jan. 17 for a conditional 1995 draft pick.

When Bret Hughes swept in for a 3-1 lead on Boston's fourth shot of the period with 4:19 to play, Riendeau sighed with relief.

"I was pretty nervous," he said. "It was three months, my first night with the team. You expect to do well every time you go out, but you never know what is going to happen. It's not like I'm going to get 1,000 chances, either. I wanted to do a good job."

He did such a good job, he left Capitals coach Terry Murray wishing he could start this game over from the opening tap of the second period.

"We had a very tough time bouncing back from that short-handed goal," Murray said. "We had far too many good chances that weren't finished. Thirty shots. One goal. With the quality chances we had, it has to be better."

The Bruins checked their hearts out in the second period, and the results showed up on the scoreboard.

As the Capitals were trying to improve their performance on the power play, Bruin Adam Oates started the short-handed attack that Ray Bourque finished for his 14th goal.

It was the fourth short-handed goal the Caps have allowed this season and gave Boston a 1-0 lead with 1:51 gone in the period.

At that point, said goalie Rick Tabaracci, "I think everyone thought we'd better score on that power play. The quicker we even it, the better for us."

But the Caps didn't even it. Instead, with 2:52 left in the second period, Bryan Smolinski took the puck, shook free of defenseman Sylvain Cote and walked in on Tabaracci.

He faked to his right, and Tabaracci went for it and slipped. Smolinski, who was scoring his 15th goal of the season, brought the puck back to the left and lifted it over Tabaracci's sprawling body.

The play drew massive boos from the USAir Arena crowd of 15,751.

The Capitals are 20-23-4, and three points behind Buffalo in the chase for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Washington will have a chance to gain some ground tomorrow, when it plays the Sabres tomorrow night in Buffalo.

"I think we better be concerned," said Tabaracci. "There are 37 games

left and we're not in the playoffs. As much talent, character and age as we have on this team that's unacceptable. We've made steps, but we still haven't found the consistency."

It came in the third period. With Washington stepping up the pace, attacking the Boston net and outshooting the Bruins 13-3.

But it took a diving effort by center Mike Ridley that pushed Riendeau away from the goal mouth, to open the net for Peake's tap-in to get the Capitals on the board.

"I don't know why we're not able to score," said Peake. "We're all working. But I think the first goal is a big key for us. We have to score first. When we do we're a much, much better team."

NOTES: The Portland Pirates and the Capitals have extended their working agreement for two more seasons, through the 1995-96 season. The Caps have been affiliated with Portland, previously the Baltimore Skipjacks, for six years. This extension, said Portland president Godfrey Wood, makes the relationship "one of the longest in professional hockey." . . . . C Dave Poulin was scratched from last night's lineup, possibly due to the flu. He joined RW Keith Jones and D Shawn Anderson on the sidelines. . . . Boston's Cam Neely, who had a hat trick against the Caps in the two teams' previous meeting, was scratched last night.

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