Cote, Capitals sink Whalers, 3-1

February 28, 1994|By Paul Doyle | Paul Doyle,Special to The Sun

HARTFORD, CONN — HARTFORD, Conn. -- Playing in his 600th NHL game yesterday, Washington Capitals defenseman Sylvain Cote returned to the place his career began and helped beat his former team.

Cote had a goal and an assist to spark Washington's three-goal third period in a 3-1 victory over the Whalers before 10,016 at the Hartford Civic Center.

It was the Capitals' third win in a row and 11th in 16 games since Jim Schoenfeld became coach Jan. 27.

After two frustrating periods in which Hartford goalie Sean Burke stopped 21 shots and Washington fell behind 1-0, Cote led a third-period charge, assisting on the tying goal and scoring the Capitals' third goal.

"Every time I come back, it's always nice," said Cote, who was traded to the Capitals in September 1991. "They've sort of had our number for last few years. So we needed a big third period tonight."

They got it by charging the net and screening Burke.

The Capitals tied it and took the lead in a span of 3 minutes, 14 seconds early in the period. The tying goal came at 1:45, when Keith Jones -- skating through the slot -- had Cote's slap shot deflect off him and past Burke.

The go-ahead goal, at 4:31, was scored with Burke out of position. With a pile-up in the goal mouth -- caused mostly by Hartford's MarkJanssens and James Patrick -- Mike Ridley scored into a partially open net as Burke was knocked out of the crease. It was Ridley's team-leading 21st goal. Calle Johansson and Kevin Hatcher assisted.

"We got our feet a little more in the third," Ridley said. "Getting a goal like that [first goal] -- especially early -- can really lift you."

The Capitals put the game away at 12:54, as Cote took a pass from Michal Pivonka on a two-on-one break and beat Burke. As Cote's shot sailed under the cross bar and over Burke's left shoulder, the net was jolted by sliding Hartford defenseman Alexander Godynyuk.

"We were behind the eight-ball and we had to do something to win the game," Cote said. "If you give Sean Burke time to see the puck, he's going to stop everything. So we decided, let's go to the net."

Said Schoenfeld: "You can't abandon what's been working for you just because a goaltender is having himself a night. You just have to stay with it and hope that the odd puck bounces your way."

After a scoreless first period in which the Capitals held a 13-9 shot advantage, Hartford took the lead at 3:13 of the second. Kevin Smyth scored his second goal of the season when he knocked a rebound past Don Beaupre (20 saves).

Cote (10 goals, 28 assists) said he always enjoys returning to Hartford, even though there aren't many players left from his years as a Whaler. But even if the trips to Hartford have less nostalgic importance, they do jolt Cote's memory.

"When I come back, it reminds me that they never gave me my trophy," Cote said. "I was named best defenseman here [in 1990-91], then they traded me. And they never gave me the trophy. I'm still waiting."

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