Caps tie Whalers, 2-2, fall to 9th in playoff race Carey's play, Bondra goal help salvage one point

March 24, 1996|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

LANDOVER - A few days ago, Washington Capitals general manager David Poile talked about the drive to the postseason and about how no one yet knew which of the Caps players would step up and lead the team in its time of need.

With 10 games to go in the regular season and Washington's playoff hopes fast slipping away, Poile and the Caps got only part of the answer and wound up with a 2-2 tie against the Hartford Whalers last night.

With the Caps trailing 2-1 in the third period, Peter Bondra, with assists from Michal Pivonka and Sylvain Cote, came up with the tying goal with 9: 51 left.

But aside from the play of goalie Jim Carey, who made 34 saves, stopping everything he could see, there was little for the sellout crowd at USAir Arena to cheer.

In fact, last night's tie, combined with wins by the New Jersey Devils and Tampa Bay Lightning, dropped the Caps into ninth place in the Eastern Conference and below the cutoff line for the playoffs for the first time this season. Coach Jim Schoenfeld left no doubt about how he felt.

"There are a lot of times when we say how proud we are of our team because of how hard they work and how they pay the price," Schoenfeld said. "For 40 minutes tonight, I was so disappointed no, I would say disgusted with our effort. The only reason we got a tie was because of the play of Jim Carey. I can't make any excuses for the players. I have no reasons and they should have no alibis.

"For what is at stake at this point in time in the season, and the effort that was given tonight, I think they should all be ashamed, all except Jim Carey."

The Caps, who begin a two-game road trip Tuesday, give up an average of 30 shots a game. But last night, they had given up that many in the first two periods and trailed 2-1 entering the final period after goals by Hartford's Robert Kron and Brendan Shanahan.

It didn't help that the Caps had taken the early lead in the opening period on a goal by Todd Krygier, who scored Washington's first power-play goal in four games and broke the team's 0-for-14 string.

Hartford goalie Sean Burke made 30 saves, playing as well as Carey did.

"We're feeling the pressure right now," said Bondra. "We have to win a game. In this game, we had a lot of chances, but again, we can't put the puck in the net. That's our problem. And when I had that breakaway in the first period, with a chance to put us up 2-0 and control the game, I made a mistake and didn't score and they come right back and it's tied."

After Washington had killed a penalty, Bondra had a great chance to put the Caps up by two, when he split the Hartford defense, picked up the puck near mid-ice and drove on Burke.

But Bondra shot wide with 3: 38 left in the opening period and the Whalers' Glen Featherstone picked up the loose puck and nine seconds later celebrated with his teammates as Kron completed the relay that beat Carey for a 1-1 tie.

"We've got to start winning some games," said Carey, who remains one win shy of a team single-season record of 30. "I'm not going to worry about where we are in the standings. We win two games, we're in fifth. We've got to stop looking at other scores and worry about our games. We win and we'll be there no matter what."

NOTES: The Caps announced tickets for Eastern Conference quarterfinal playoff games will go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday. The Caps, one of five teams battling for the final four conference playoff spots, own the fourth-longest streak in the NHL for consecutive postseason appearances at 14, trailing only Boston, Chicago and St. Louis. Tickets may be purchased at all TicketMaster locations and at the USAir Arena box office. Ticket prices for the quarterfinal round are $50, $46, $40, $37, $30 and $14. . . . Last night's sellout was the 19th of the season, and the 10th in the Caps' past 13 games.

Pub Date: 3/24/96

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