Jagr, Pens don't let Caps pass

Pittsburgh wins, 2-1, ousts Washington

April 22, 2000|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Pittsburgh superstar Jaromir Jagr's shot -- which seemed to be more of a pass than an attempt to put something on goal -- eliminated the Capitals from the NHL playoffs last night.

The end came in five games, two fewer than the number of home games Capitals coach Ron Wilson had said, so inadvisedly early on, that he would give the Penguins and still beat them.

It was the 58th playoff goal in Jagr's career, and it put the Penguins up 2-1, the score they would eventually win by in front of 18,672 at the MCI Center last night.

The goal gave the Penguins a 4-1 series victory in the first round of the playoffs, and ended any thoughts of the Capitals coming back from a 3-0 series deficit.

It also meant that Wilson's comments, which he made before the series started after finding out his team would have to travel to Pittsburgh in Game 2 because of a scheduling conflict, would come back to haunt him.

By Jagr's standards, it was not a pretty goal. Almost parallel to the goal near the boards, Jagr just put a shot toward the net that appeared to bounce off a Capitals defenseman before finding the net at 7: 56 of the third period.

It changed the momentum of a game in which the Capitals had played well throughout. They were not able to generate as many scoring chances during the game's final 12 minutes as they had during the first 48.

"It's really tough on a goalie like [Capitals] Olie [Kolzig] when he's not seeing very many shots," Wilson said.

"Then for one second, you let your guard down and a guy like Jagr threads the needle with a shot."

Said Kolzig: "I saw it pretty good and that's the way the series went. That's it in a nutshell right there. We didn't get one bounce."

The Penguins, who will face Philadelphia in the next round, now own a 5-1 all-time playoff series mark over Washington.

They struck first last night in the opening period when center Tyler Wright's slap shot beat Kolzig, putting them up just a little more than five minutes into the game.

The Capitals answered less than five minutes later when Sergei Gonchar split two Penguins' defenders down the middle of the ice and sent a rocket over the right shoulder of goalkeeper Ron Tugnutt.

The teams went to the locker room tied at 1 after the first period, which was probably something the Capitals would have taken after once again having to kill off more penalties than the Penguins.

Capitals left-winger Chris Simon was hit with two penalties and a 10-minute game misconduct, giving Pittsburgh two power-play chances.

Simon was livid after his second penalty, for slashing, at 14: 46. While in the penalty box, he kicked the camera at the foot of the box with blade of a boot.

That left the Capitals without one of their best goal-scorers once again for an extended period.

Simon was suspended for Game 2, but came back to record assists in the next two games.

He missed part of the second period before returning to lead a furious attack on Tugnutt for the remainder of the period.

The Capitals were able to draw their first penalty of the game against Pittsburgh, but were unable to convert on the two-minute power-play.

It was not due to a lack of chances, though. The Capitals managed to outshoot Pittsburgh 12-8 for the period and by 26-17 for the game, prompting Wilson to talk afterward about how his team outplayed Pittsburgh.

"Bottom line, we won," Jagr said. "Outplayed or not, it doesn't matter.

"Of course, you've got to be lucky if you're going to win. They had some chances and they missed them."

Give the credit to Tugnutt, who shut out the Capitals in Game 1, and was up to the challenge. He held the Capitals to eight goals in five games.

"I think the difference for them in this series is that Ron Tugnutt didn't make any mistakes," Wilson said.

"We're a low-scoring team. We tried so hard to score. We got 30, 32, 33 shots on goal some nights and we come out with one goal. Pittsburgh made sure if they got a scoring chance, they put it away."

As for his comments made at the outset of the series, Wilson credited it to media hype.

"If I can motivate people like that, I'll motivate the Philadelphia Flyers to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins," Wilson said.

"Give me a break. Half the so-called comments weren't even made."

The Penguins' Matthew Barnaby said Wilson's comments did have an effect, though.

"It was total disrespect to our team coming into this series," Barnaby said. "We proved him wrong. Our biggest point of motivation was him."

NOTE: The Penguins played without center Jan Hrdina, the team's leading goal-scorer in the playoffs with four. Hrdina missed his second straight game due to a muscle strain. The Capitals also had to deal with a key injury to defenseman Brendan Witt, who missed his second game due to a groin injury.

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