Capitals rally to tie Sabres, 3-3

February 21, 1994|By Bill Free | Bill Free,Sun Staff Writer

LANDOVER -- It was the kind of game the Washington Capitals could have easily won.

But individual breakdowns gave Buffalo two goals, forcing Washington to fight back to get a 3-3 tie yesterday with the Buffalo Sabres before 16,269 at the USAir Arena.

The draw extended Washington's unbeaten streak to seven games (5-0-2) and left the Capitals 8-2-2 under coach Jim Schoenfeld.

Starting goaltender Rick Tabaracci knocked in Buffalo's first goal with his skate when he was too late getting to the post late in the third period, and defenseman Al Iafrate gave the Sabres their third goal when he lost the puck in front of the net to Dave Hannan, who scored for a 3-2 lead 10:44 into the third period.

The pain of Iafrate's turnover was lessened a little when Mike Ridley scored at the end of a four-shot barrage by the Capitals to tie the game at 3 at 14:16 of the third.

Buffalo goaltender Grant Fuhr made three straight saves before Ridley could get the tying score.

Ridley began the assault on Fuhr with a shot from the right crease. Then it was Peter Bondra firing away off a rebound. Next came Iafrate storming in for a shot, and Ridley finished the job.

"We gave ourself a chance to win it at the end with that goal," said Ridley. "But we have to eliminate turnovers. You can't give up two goals like that and expect to win."

Bondra came close to breaking the 3-3 tie with 3:48 left in regulation when he spun toward the net and got off a shot on which Fuhr made an outstanding glove save.

That was last excellent opportunity the Capitals had to score in the game, as both teams played it safe in the final minutes of regulation, and Washington didn't get a shot off in the five-minute overtime.

The lone threat by Washington in overtime came with 34 seconds left, as Iafrate skated toward the net but lost the puck to Bob Sweeney.

However, the Sabres (the third-best road team in the NHL, with a 16-12-4 record) came ever so close to taking this one in overtime because of -- what else? -- another Washington turnover.

With 2:07 on the clock, Iafrate was trying to clear the puck when he lost it to Wayne Presley behind the net, and Presley got it to Sweeney for a shot on goal from point-blank range.

Sweeney was shooting on Don Beaupre, who had come into the game at the start of the third period to replace Tabaracci (knee).

Beaupre made a superb glove save to halt Sweeney.

"I was talking to myself both times Al lost the puck," said Beaupre. "It was late in the intermission when I found out I was going in."

Sweeney wasn't through.

Thirty-five seconds later in overtime, he had another chance to win it as he went at Beaupre one-on-one again.

This time, Sweeney hit the post, and the Capitals were off the hook again.

"It was a great tie for us," said Schoenfeld. "Some individuals made bad judgment, but our breakdowns weren't the system. The game plan is still working. The players who made the mistakes know what they did and it's correctable. Al knows what he did wrong [on the third Buffalo goal]. The puck jumped up on him and got away. I've seen him make the same play several times and go right on skating away with the puck."

Schoenfeld said he would have liked a faster pace in yesterday's game but the Sabres didn't allow it.

"At home, you like a quicker tempo, but Buffalo is very good at making teams play at a slow pace," said the coach. "They did a good job of clogging up the neutral zone. We didn't start dumping the puck and chasing until late in the game."

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