Capitals' late slumber continues in 6-4 loss

Defeat vs. Devils 8th in past 10 games

Hockey

April 04, 2001|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - The Washington Capitals had never beaten a defending Stanley Cup champion three times, and they still haven't.

The Caps combined some great hockey with some terrible hockey last night and lost to the streaking New Jersey Devils, 6-4.

Washington had beaten the Devils twice this season and was hoping for another notch on its belt as the regular season dwindles to an end.

But more than that, the Caps wanted to return to their winning style of play. Instead, they teased the crowd of 17,523. They showed glimpses of the red-hot team of Dec. 1 to mid-March. But they also showed signs of the team that has lost eight of its past 10 games.

"Anytime you give up six goals, it's not what you want, especially when you're a hockey team that prides itself on defense," said Caps defenseman Joe Reekie. "It tells us what we have to eliminate. It tells us we have to eliminate scoring chances against."

Said center Adam Oates: "This is not what we expected the last couple weeks. We've talked about it, but you've got to do it on the ice. We have to work on positioning, intensity, a lot of little things. We let it get a little sloppy."

Asked if the way they're playing is a letdown after clinching the Southern Division title, Oates said, "I'd like to use an excuse, but playing the Stanley Cup champs you shouldn't need anything else to get up and play well."

As the Caps failed to bear down on defense and seemed to leave it to the other guy to forecheck, the Devils continued their own hot streak. New Jersey has won 17 of its past 19 games as it battles Ottawa for the Eastern Conference lead. The Devils also have won eight in a row on the road.

The end of the second period and the beginning of the third were devastating for the Caps, as the Devils scored four goals in a little more than a 10-minute span to turn a 3-2 deficit into a 6-3 lead.

After trailing 2-0 early, the Caps score three unanswered goals between the first and second periods. They continued to attack, but with just 39.7 seconds left in the second period, New Jersey reversed the tables.

The Devils' Bob Corkum carried the puck inches inside the blue line and let go a slap shot that was screened from Olie Kolzig's view until the final moments, tying the game at 3.

And while the Caps were still regrouping, Petr Sykora took a shot that Kolzig went down to stop in his butterfly maneuver. But the puck trickled slowly through his legs, and before defenseman Calle Johansson could swipe it away, the Devils' Patrick Elias tapped it into the net for a 4-3 lead.

"That last shift of the second period, basically, it cost us the game. Some simple mistakes by people you would hope wouldn't make those mistakes at this time of the year," Caps coach Ron Wilson said.

"We've got to fix those mistakes, that's all. We shouldn't be turning the puck over in our own end. We shouldn't be turning the puck over in the neutral zone. I think this is all correctable stuff.

"I'm going to have to reassess who we're putting out there in certain situations. I'm going to have to be brutally honest about how some people are playing, and we've got to reassess where we are."

Elias completed a hat trick by finishing a two-on-one breakaway while shorthanded at 4:15 of the third period, and Alexander Mogilny scored at 9:50 to make it 6-3 and put the game out of reach.

Kolzig faced 35 shots, stopping 29, and New Jersey's Martin Brodeur stopped 22 of the 26 shots he faced.

Caps left wing Chris Simon, who led the team in scoring last season but has just 20 points this year while missing 20 games, has been out for a month with a shoulder problem. He returned to the lineup last night, playing on the team's third line with Oates and Dmitri Khristich.

Simon didn't provide any great energy in his first game back, and the shift of Oates to the third line generates a number of questions. Wilson has said he wants to find some time to rest some of his veterans, and Oates, 38, is one of those who has been playing major minutes, averaging 20 or more a game.

New Jersey 2 2 2 - 6

Washington 1 2 1 - 4

First period - 1, New Jersey, Elias 36 (Nemchinov, Rafalski), 4:25. 2, New Jersey, Holik 15 (Stevens), 14:41. 3, Washington, Gonchar 19 (Halpern), 16:07. Penalties - Elias, NJ (slashing), 8:44; Marshall, Was (slashing), 8:44.

Second period - 4, Washington, Linden 15, 6:28. 5, Washington, Nikolishin 13 (Oates, Gonchar), 9:21 (pp). 6, New Jersey, Corkum 7, 19:20. 7, New Jersey, Elias 37 (Sykora, Nemchinov), 19:42. Penalties - Simon, Was (roughing), 2:41; Sutton, NJ (slashing), 8:00; White, NJ (holding), 8:00; Whitfield, Was (slashing), 16:56.

Third period - 8, New Jersey, Elias 38 (Sykora), 4:16 (sh). 9, New Jersey, Mogilny 43 (Gomez, Brylin), 9:50. 10, Washington, Konowalchuk 22 (Gonchar, Whitfield), 12:45. Penalties - Nemchinov, NJ (tripping), 3:17; Sacco, Was (hooking), 13:29. Shots on goal - New Jersey 9-18-8-35. Washington 6-9-11-26. Power-play opportunities - New Jersey 0 of 3; Washington 1 of 3. Goalies - New Jersey, Brodeur 40-17-11 (26 shots-22 saves). Washington, Kolzig 35-26-8 (35-29). A - 17,523 (18,672).

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