Whalers put crimp in Caps' streak

March 27, 1995|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun Staff Writer

LANDOVER -- In his first 23 days in the NHL, goalie Jim Carey was given the majority of the credit for the Washington Capitals' rapid rise in the Eastern Conference standings.

Before yesterday's meeting with the Hartford Whalers, he had lost just once in 12 games and the Caps were looking to extend their 9-1-2 hot streak.

So when the Caps lost, 4-3, in overtime to the Hartford Whalers at USAir Arena, Carey was front and center, trying to shoulder the blame.

"The puck went over my stick," Carey said of Geoff Sanderson's game-winner from the top of the left circle with 2:44 left in overtime. "I'll have it next time. It was a simple shot. My fault. I should have had it."

Before the game, Carey led the NHL with a 1.38 goals-against average. This time, though, stopping the Whalers' shooters 24 times wasn't enough,

His teammates fought back twice from one-goal deficits to force overtime on a goal by Peter Bondra with 8:10 gone in the third period. But it was Hartford's Jeff Reese, coming in with a 1-4-1 record and a 3.24 goals-against average, who made 31 saves, including two on Michal Pivonka just before the puck popped out to a wide-open Sanderson for a breakout.

"We knew that they played a real emotional game against the Flyers and we knew they'd be tired," said Sanderson. "And we remembered that they embarrassed us in our own rink. So coming in here, we said, 'Let's go get those two points back.' We wanted to use our speed, and when I got that puck I was trying to do that. I just skated as fast as I could."

He skated fast enough to get a step on Caps defenseman Sylvain Cote, then fired hard at the net.

"I'm coming back eager for Tampa Bay [on Wednesday]," said TTC Carey, who allowed more than three goals for the first time in his 13 consecutive starts. "There are only 17 games left and every one of them is important. This one didn't help us, but it didn't kill us, either."

The Caps were coming off Saturday's 2-2 tie with the Philadelphia Flyers, a game that was mentally and physically exhausting. And they also were playing Hartford, a team, as Sanderson said, they had embarrassed six days ago, 5-0.

No one on the Caps wanted to admit that either of those circumstances affected this performance, but no one was willing to let Carey carry the loss alone, either.

"When you recognize this situation may arise, it's disappointing that we don't execute," said Caps coach Jim Schoenfeld. "This was a very important game for us. We've got to carry our emotion on the ice from one game to another. Philadelphia was history. This game had a life of its own. We shouldn't have trouble getting up for anyone from here on. Every game is critical.

"There is a fine line between winning and losing and we walked right on that line today. We put ourselves in the position where a bad break could beat us, and it did.

"Jim didn't lose this game, our entire team lost this game."

From the beginning, said Cote, the Caps didn't take charge and Hartford was eager to lead. The Whalers' Andrei Nikolishin scored 13:12 into the first period, putting the Caps at an early disadvantage.

"This is a bad loss," said Cote, who assisted on a goal by Steve Konowalchuk that tied the game at 16:21. "Those are points we (( need to stay on top and it's hard to surrender them through our own bad play. We should have set the tempo instead of waiting and reacting."

The Caps appeared to be taking charge 4:04 into the second period when Bondra scored the first of his two goals, this one short-handed, to give Washington a 2-1 lead.

But Hartford's Ted Drury tied it at 11:09, and at 13:48 Mark Janssens gave the Whalers a 3-2 advantage.

It stayed that way until 8:10 of the third, when Bondra tied the game at 3. "We shouldn't lose a game like this," said Pivonka. "Not at this time of the year. Not ever."

Hartford . 1 2 0 1 -- 4

Washington 1 1 1 0 -- 3

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