Caps say series isn't over yet

May 07, 1994|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun Staff Writer

LANDOVER -- A realist would look at the ragtag Washington Capitals, down three games to none in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series with the New York Rangers, and make the prediction that this series is over.

The Capitals' plight seems even more predictable given coach Jim Schoenfeld's announcement yesterday that the availability of right wing Peter Bondra (shoulder) and center Joe Juneau (charley horse) will not be known until game time.

Already the Capitals are without Michal Pivonka, their leading post-season scorer, and key defensemen Calle Johansson and Jim Johnson.

But the Capitals are not paid for their practicality. They are paid to win, and tonight, in Game 4 at USAir Arena, the Capitals must win or call it a season.

"So what are we supposed to do?" said Washington goalie Don Beaupre, who will be in net again tonight. "Sit back, say it's bad and stop trying? You never stop trying. You don't come into the locker room and say, 'Boy, poor us. So many injuries.'

"To stop trying would be a sad scenario for every player, for the coach, for the entire organization. There is no time to feel sorry for yourself."

The Capitals, as Beaupre went on to point out, have not quit once this season and they are certainly not going to start now.

"There are no excuses," Beaupre said. "The bottom line is to win. We could have 10 guys out and it doesn't change [tonight]. We have to win. We've got to try to the end. Only then can you hold your head up and say you did everything you could. I know that's corny, but it's also true."

Already they are overachievers in the eyes of many, including some of their fans. They rallied from 11th place in the Eastern Conference to finish seventh and be among the eight teams that qualified for the conference playoffs.

Then they upset the Pittsburgh Penguins, who were contending for their third Stanley Cup in four years.

But now they are down to the Rangers, the No. 1 team in the NHL in the regular season, and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.

At this point all the Capitals can do is continue working as hard as they can to stay alive.

"We're discouraged, absolutely," said Schoenfeld. "But wins cure everything. We need a win.

"Our attitude is to go into this game and block out the situation and focus on this one game. It does us absolutely no good to think about being down 3-0 against a great hockey team. That's too overwhelming. What we have to think about is just this game and the next shift and the shift after that."

Schoenfeld had no trouble identifying New York for what it is. The Rangers have had the No. 1 team in the league throughout the regular season. They have had the best or nearly the best power-play and penalty-killing units. They led the league in scoring short-handed goals and in goals-against average.

"We can compete," Schoenfeld said. "The bottom line for us is to put the puck in the net."

While Washington insists it has a chance, the Rangers also say they aren't taking anything for granted.

"Nothing's clinched yet," said Ranger Adam Graves. "They have an excellent team and we've seen the parity already in these playoffs. Basically, we have to approach this next game the same way we approached the last one and the one before that."

Brian Leetch, who leads the Rangers in points in the playoffs with 12, says the Rangers approach every game as a "must" game.

"You certainly don't want to give a hard-working team, an emotional team, like Washington a chance to get things going their way," Leetch said. "If we can play well and close this out, we'll do that."


Eastern Conference

semifinal series

Opponent: New York Rangers

Site: USAir Arena, Landover

Time: 7:38

TV/Radio: HTS/WITH (1230 AM), WMAL (630 AM)

Tickets: 1,000 available

Outlook: The Capitals are one game from elimination, down 3-0 in the best-of-seven series. Conversely, New York needs one win for back-to-back four-game sweeps in the first two rounds. The Capitals' D Calle Johansson (traumatized nerve in leg), C Michal Pivonka (groin) and D Jim Johnson (knee ligaments) remain out. RW Peter Bondra (shoulder) is day-to-day. C Joe Juneau (deep thigh bruise) is not being listed on the official Caps injury report, but coach Jim Schoenfeld said Juneau and Bondra are both questionable up to game time. New York reports no injuries.

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