Caps extend Rangers, 4-2

May 08, 1994|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun Staff Writer

LANDOVER -- The Washington Capitals are no longer winless in the month of May.

The Capitals are no longer winless in their Eastern Conference semifinal series with the New York Rangers.

And the Rangers are no longer undefeated in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

All of this unexpected news was brought about last night by a rousing Washington performance that resulted in a 4-2 victory over the Rangers, who could have clinched this series with a win.

"It keeps us alive," said Washington goalie Don Beaupre, who made 25 saves, while giving up a goal to Adam Graves 33 seconds into the first period and a power-play goal to Brian Noonan with 2:44 left in the game. "There is a lot of pride for us in beating New York. But it's only one game. It isn't what we're here for. This just means we're one step closer to where we want to be."

The win keeps Washington's playoff hopes alive, as this best-of-seven series returns to Madison Square Garden for Game 5 tomorrow.

Going into last night's game, Washington was 0-for-8 in May playoff games. Of the 18,130 packing USAir Arena, many were Rangers fans who had bused here in hopes of witnessing a Rangers' sweep.

The Rangers, who had a seven-game postseason winning streak, will have to live with a blemish. After sweeping the New York Islanders in the quarterfinals and winning the first three games of this series, the Rangers know the feeling of a loss.

"Washington played with a lot of passion and commitment," Rangers coach Mike Keenan said. "They simply outplayed us. There's really no other explanation for it, except that Washington was a lot better hockey club tonight than we were."

The Capitals played this game the way they played against Pittsburgh. In that series, every time they lost a starter to an injury, they came back stronger the next game.

And last night they earned this win with superb teamwork.

Beaupre made the saves, and Kevin Hatcher keyed the penalty killing and overall defensive effort.

And Washington's much-maligned offense chased New York goalie Mike Richter with 4:34 to play in the second period.

The Capitals, with Peter Bondra (shoulder) and Michal Pivonka (groin) watching from the stands, came up with a scoring outburst from Todd Krygier (two goals), Joe Juneau (a goal and an assist despite a thigh bruise) and defenseman Jason Woolley (called up from Portland of the AHL two games ago).

When Krygier scored his first goal on a breakaway 7:26 into the first period for a 1-1 tie, it was the first goal given up by Richter since the second period of Game 2, a span of 102 minutes and 50 seconds.

But as much as scoring meant to the Capitals, the way Sylvain Cote, Dave Poulin, Hatcher, Kelly Miller, Shawn Anderson, John Slaney and Beaupre killed a 5-on-3 Ranger power play meant more.

"That was the turning point," Capitals coach Jim Schoenfeld said. "It was the biggest penalty kill we've had this season.

"But we're still down in 3-1 in this series. We're still a very desperate team. We're a long way from where we want to be. The Rangers are still just one game from where they want to be."

With 4:57 to play in the first, defenseman Joe Reekie set up his team for a challenge when he got caught cross-checking after Steve Konowalchuk was penalized for holding.

tTC Cote, Poulin and Hatcher played the first 1:60 of the penalty, and Miller, Anderson and Slaney played the last 40 seconds.

When the players in front of him weren't clearing the puck or poking it away from the Rangers, Beaupre was making the saves. He had four beauties by the time the penalty ended.

"This was a very hard game to prepare for," said Juneau, who scored his first two points of this series. "There was nothing to build on. We were starting from scratch. Now we have something.

"This was more like the way we played against Pittsburgh. We killed the big penalties -- the five-on-three early and the five-minute major on Poully [Poulin] -- Beaup was big in the net, and we scored on our own power play."

In the third, Washington played pure defense. For the first time in 1710 games -- or in other words, for the first time in their history -- the Capitals did not take a shot on goal in a period.

There were nervous moments in the closing minutes, when Poulin was called for the five-minute major for hitting from behind with 5:53 to play, giving the Rangers an extended power play.

"It was just another test of character," Poulin said.

And the Caps passed, giving up only one goal to Noonan with 1:51 left on the power play.

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