Penguins unravel Capitals, 4-1

January 30, 1995|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun Staff Writer

LANDOVER -- The Washington Capitals were not eager to talk about their day's work. And with reason.

For four games, they had been putting together solid goaltending, strong defense, fine penalty killing and an unrelenting effort to find some scoring.

Friday, it came together for a victory over the New York Islanders. But yesterday at USAir Arena against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Capitals came apart in a 4-1 loss.

Goalie Olie Kolzig (23 saves) wasn't given a lot of help in the early going, but he grimaced at the memory of Kevin Stevens' first goal 2:20 into the game.

"I think if I would have made a save on Stevens' goal or the one by [Ron] Francis, it would have been an entirely different game," he said, referring to the goal by Francis that made it 3-0 with 7:44 to go in that first period.

The Penguins have won five games without a loss, and the Capitals are 1-3-1.

And so it is back to square one.

"We're not executing," said Capitals coach Jim Schoenfeld. "Our goal scorers are responsible for scoring. We had chances pass through the crease, and guys didn't have their sticks down to put the puck into the net.

"You can't lead the league in oohs and aahs," said the coach. "They don't matter. They're not going to win you any games. And we've had far too many in this early, early part of the season.

"It's up to guys to accept the responsibility when given an opportunity in front of the net, and [with] an empty net staring them in the face, it is unacceptable for them to shoot it wide or high. It has to go in the net. That's what they get paid to do."

Yesterday, all but one of the Caps were high and wide. Rookie Jason Allison scored his second goal of the season on a power play with 9:01 left, and at that point, he and Schoenfeld thought the Caps might still have a chance.

Then Joe Reekie and Peter Bondra were stopped by Pittsburgh goalie Ken Wregget, who made 30 saves.

"My goal doesn't matter now," said Allison, "but if Joe or Peter had scored, it would have been a two-goal game with more than six minutes to play."

But the Capitals could not score at even strength and managed only Allison's goal on eight power plays -- including two five-on-three opportunities.

It didn't help that Caps center Joe Juneau, a key element to the Washington power play, was forced to the sidelines in the first period with an aggravated hip flexor.

Adding to the problems was that the heretofore solid defense had big problems.

The Caps came out hitting hard, but the Penguins came out scoring.

Stevens took advantage of a bad decision by Reekie that left Stevens wide-open to score on Pittsburgh's first shot of the game.

And then Craig Berube and Mark Tinordi were given penalties within 11 seconds of each other, giving Pittsburgh the five-on-three advantage that Jaromir Jagr cashed in 49 seconds later for a 2-0 lead.

And then, at the 7:44 mark, Francis tapped in a relay from Kjell Samuelsson to make it 3-0.

With the Caps defense lapsed, Kolzig gave up three goals on four shots.

"I think we didn't take Pittsburgh's offense seriously enough," said Caps defenseman Sylvain Cote about the Penguins, who had 19 goals in their previous four games. "We got caught in the transition at mid-ice several times and gave up odd-man breakaways. . . . We seemed to lack desire."

Schoenfeld saw it that way, too. Not only, he said, were the Caps "erratic," but worse "we had some players who didn't show up to play," a situation the Capitals can't afford.

"It isn't a matter of giving some of what you have to give," Schoenfeld said. "With this format, with only conference games and every two points being so important, you're not going to have a night where you're going to win being at half-mast."

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