Caps' new defense shuts down Wings, 6-3

January 31, 1994|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun Staff Writer

LANDOVER -- The Washington Capitals are like kids who have just discovered how to play the game.

They've got a new coach behind the bench, a new defensive plan on the ice, and yesterday afternoon, they had six players putting the puck in the Detroit Red Wings net.

The Capitals won their second straight game for coach Jim Schoenfeld, and the 6-3 victory broke the Red Wings' nine-game road unbeaten streak.

"Jim has changed quite a few things," said Washington left wing Kelly Miller. "We have a different forecheck, and our defense is standing up in the neutral zone. That's the biggest difference.

"With the 'D' making its stand at or before the blue line and playing tight, we're putting the pressure on the other team's forwards. There aren't any easy passes for them, and it causes turnovers, which in turn sets up an earlier offensive attack for us. It's making it a lot more fun, because we don't have to backcheck allthe way down the ice."

RF To the 16,581 fans at USAir Arena, the victory was particularly im

pressive, since Detroit is the most powerful offensive team in the league -- by far -- with 221 goals scored, an average of 4.5 goals.

But the Red Wings weren't prepared to say the Capitals, with goalie Don Beaupre making 20 saves, were terrific.

"They seemed to have some life after the coaching change," said Steve Yzerman, who scored Detroit's third goal. "Their guys were playing pretty hard."

"But it was more us than anything," said Ray Sheppard. "We just broke down. We made some mistakes that we weren't accustomed to making the last two months."

The Capitals deserved a lot of credit. Besides causing Detroit difficulty in the neutral zone, they were impressive in the way they attacked the net.

Aside from the first goal -- a 70- footer by defenseman John Slaney -- the others came from the forwards.

"It's not like a huge change," said Mike Ridley, who scored once and assisted on another. "It's just that we countered pretty well. The defense standing up at the blue line more, that's the biggest thing. Terry [former coach Terry Murray] wanted us to do that, too. Whenever you execute on the ice, like we did, there's a chance for the breakaways and better opportunities."

Rookie Pat Peake scored at a critical point in the second period. Just 1:08 after Ray Sheppard scored one of his two goals and tied the game at 1, Peake took a beauty of a pass from defenseman Sylvain Cote in front of Detroit goalie Tim Cheveldae and put the Caps back on top.

"It's exciting right now," Cote said. "Everyone is up. For us, having a new coach is like a writer having a new pen. You can't wait to use it."

Miller, Dale Hunter and Peter Bondra also scored for Washington.

Bondra had two goals in his past 15 games, and Miller has two in his past 38 games.

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