Capitals forced to settle for 2-2 tie with Islanders

March 30, 1994|By Sandy McKee | Sandy McKee,Sun Staff Writer

LANDOVER -- The Washington Capitals skated on to their home ice at USAir Arena with some things to prove last night.

First, there was the debate over their ability to win at home, where they were barely above .500 at 14-13-8.

Then there was the issue of whether they understood the seriousness of their position in the Eastern Conference playoff race, where they were tied with the Florida Panthers for the last qualifying spot only six points ahead of last night's opponent, the New York Islanders.

And then, of course, there was the question of whether they could hold a lead.

For 57 minutes, it looked like all those questions would be answered positively. But thanks to a late Islanders goal, the Capitals had to content themselves with a 2-2 tie.

The Caps had forged ahead, 2-1, on a goal by Dave Poulin with 3:45 left in the second period, and held it until just 2:45 remained in the game.

But then, as is so often the case for this team, disaster struck.

Veteran Dale Hunter was called for high sticking, putting the Islanders on the power play.

With Capitals goalie Don Beaupre sprawled on his side, trying to haul in a loose puck, the Islanders' Marty McInnis somehow managed to find that small space where Beaupre's waist curves before broadening into a well-padded hip and blasted the puck through it into the net to force the game into overtime, where it ended 2-2.

"I believe we can win," Washington coach Jim Schoenfeld said before the game, attended by 13,917 enthusiastic fans. "When they believe it, we'll win."

Last night, the Capitals had faith -- for a while. But instead of pushing two points ahead of the Panthers in the Eastern race, the Caps settled for one.

Washington could have secured the victory early on, if rookie Pat Peake could have converted one of his many steals in front of the Islanders net. And they could have won it late in overtime, if Kelly Miller had been able to put one of his two up-close shots away.

But that, of course, has not been the Caps' way. They are intent on making their games exciting down to the final shot.

The Capitals started out by playing a blue-collar game. They fought for position and puck possession along the boards, and controlled much of the first-period play.

The hard work paid off with 8:16 gone, when Michal Pivonka, returning from a concussion, outworked Islanders left wing Steve Thomas behind the net and made a perfect centering pass to Joe Juneau for a 1-0 Washington lead.

During the next eight minutes, Washington had ample opportunity to increase its edge. But New York goalie Jamie McLennan stopped shots by Hunter, Shawn Anderson and Calle Johansson.

And then, as so often happens to the Capitals, one breakaway later the game was tied.

With 2:25 left Brad Dalgarno took the puck from the Capitals and got Benoit Hogue and Dave Chyzowski out on a two-on-one break against Caps defenseman Kevin Hatcher. Chyzowski, who was recalled from Salt Lake City of the International League Monday, scored his first goal since Oct. 19, 1991.

The good news, if there was any, was that this breakaway came at even strength, not on the power play, as had happened three times in an embarrassing loss to Boston Sunday.

The Caps emerged from the second period with a 2-1 lead, thanks to the bad shooting of Islander Pierre Turgeon and the four-on-four play of Capitals Dave Poulin, Miller, Joe Reekie and Sylvain Cote.

Turgeon had an open-net shot with 15:05 to play in the period, when Beaupre came out of the net to clear the puck from the defensive zone. Beaupre only got a piece of the puck, which wound up on Turgeon's stick before Beaupre could recover. But Turgeon's shot went wide.

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