Vintage Iafrate game leaves Capitals with a sour taste

March 28, 1994|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun Staff Writer

LANDOVER -- Al Iafrate returned to the USAir Arena yesterday and played the way Washington Capitals fans were used to seeing him play -- except he is now playing for the Boston Bruins.

"His goal won the game for us," said Boston coach Brian Sutter, whose team won, 6-4, before a sellout crowd of 18,130. "He's been a godsend."

Iafrate walked into the hallway outside the Boston locker room and immediately was swarmed by reporters.

"For a while, I felt I was a jinx," said Iafrate, who had two goals and an assist, including the game-winning score with 8:43 to play. "Within a day of the day I get there, two of the best players at their positions in the NHL [right wing Cam Neely and defenseman Ray Bourque] get hurt. I'm just working hard to be a factor in the hockey game."

He smiled. He laughed. What a homecoming.

"Long before I got to be a Boston Bruin, the Bruins found ways to win," said Iafrate, who was traded to Boston a week ago. "It feels very good to fit into that attitude, to be in that mold, to be on a team that always finds a way to win."

He says he isn't playing defense any differently from the way he played it with the Capitals.

Offensively, for some reason, the puck seems to be coming to him.

"A lot this year [with Washington] when I'd follow the play up, I'd get hit behind the net, get knocked down, struggle to beat my forward who was checking me up ice, and nine times out of 10 wouldn't get the puck," Iafrate said. "If you're the defenseman up on the play and you don't get the puck, a lot of times, it's going to end up as an odd-man rush against. But here, when I get up on the play and I'm open, I usually get the puck."

When Iafrate scored, the song "Wild Thing" did not play. But many of the fans -- some in new Boston jerseys with the No. 43 and the name Iafrate on the back -- stood and cheered. Some booed, but it was hard to tell if they were booing Iafrate or the Capitals for giving up the goal.

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