Capitals draw blank again, 3-0

Second straight shutout yields boos in D.C., as hungry Carolina wins


March 16, 2001|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - The Washington Capitals were looking for a strong debut from their new additions Trevor Linden and Dainius Zubrus last night, and the Carolina Hurricanes were simply looking to keep their playoff hopes alive.

The Capitals learned desperation can be an inspiration.

The Hurricanes outplayed the Capitals at nearly every turn to win, 3-0, and send the Caps to their second straight loss - both by shutout, a first since December 1999.

They lost, 2-0, Tuesday night to Anaheim. Last night's defeat made the first back-to-back losses since Jan. 18-19.

"We didn't compete hard enough," said Caps coach Ron Wilson. "Our power play was god-awful, and that was really the biggest disappointment of the game. It was our first power play that completely shifted the momentum.

"It's like all the guys on our team think we're a high-skill team, and we're not. We've still got to grind to be successful, and we've gotten away from that in the last few games."

The Carolina victory was the fifth shutout of the season for goalie Arturs Irbe, who made 25 saves and earned the zero in the third period, when the Capitals turned up the heat considerably.

The victory also ended a three-game losing streak for the Hurricanes, who are battling the Boston Bruins for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. Though Carolina is in second place in the Southeast Division, the Hurricanes are 13 points behind division-leading Washington and see their best playoff route as the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.

This game didn't exactly start badly for the Capitals. They started fast. Linden, the 6-foot-4, 214-pound center, started on a line with Peter Bondra and Andrei Nikolishin. Zubrus, a 6-4, 221-pound wing, joined center Adam Oates and wing Dmitri Khristich. In the first three minutes, they got five shots.

But they still had five shots at the 11:41 mark, when Carolina's Jeff O'Neill took his team's third shot of the night, sweeping a rebound away from defenseman Calle Johansson and past Caps goalie Olie Kolzig for a power-play goal and a 1-0 lead.

The Capitals looked more spirited five minutes later. Bondra, Linden and Nikolishin went hard to the net, forcing the Hurricanes defense into a hooking penalty. On the following power play, Linden shot from the outside, and Jeff Halpern tried to tie up the Carolina defense in front of the net, but no one got to the rebound.

That was much of the story in the first two periods, when the Caps followed up few shots and were beaten to almost every rebound.

Said Carolina defenseman Kevin Hatcher, a former Cap: "We didn't try to be too cute with the puck. With the discipline Wasnhington has, if you try to be fancy, they make you pay. In this game, the key was the first goal. ... We played real solid. We realize we have to win some hockey games."

Of course, the Caps were adjusting to the addition of Linden and Zubrus, but that failed to account for the entire team's being outplayed. The announced sellout of 18,672 at MCI Center cared. Fans began booing with nearly half the first period still to play.

By the time Carolina had extended its lead to 3-0 with 3:50 left in the second period, the boo birds were in full throat and remained so into the opening minutes of the third period.

Rod Brind'Amour gave Carolina a 2-0 lead with an even-strength goal with 4:12 gone in the second period, walking in against Kolzig and scoring on just his team's fifth shot of the game.

Then penalties bit the Caps at 5:39, with a four-minute double-minor against Brendan Witt that was compounded with 2:23 left by a high-sticking, two-minute levy against Linden.

Twelve seconds later, up five men to three, Carolina's O'Neill scored his second of the night and Carolina's third.

Washington's three-man defense did do a great job killing the rest of the penalty, with Kolzig making a great diving save on a shot by Sami Kapanen with 11 seconds left on the penalty.

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