Caps' 2-0 lead becomes 3-2 loss

Carolina scores three in third period, keeping Washington winless in 6


November 09, 2001|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - The Capitals came into last night's game with Southeast Division leader Carolina winless in their past five contests, but at the 13:34 mark of the second period, Peter Bondra pulled back his stick and let a rocket loose.

It flew right past the glove of Hurricanes' goalie Tom Barrasso. And for a while, for a full 20 minutes, it seemed all the Washington Capitals pieces had fallen into place. The team looked in sync, the defense sparkled. Ulf Dahlen added a power-play goal. The crowd of 15,372 at MCI Center cheered as if it were sure the Caps had finally found the combination of play that had eluded them much of this young NHL season.

But then, everyone woke up to a 3-2 Carolina victory. And the crowd booed.

"When you're in a little bit of a losing streak, bad things have a tendency to multiply," said Capitals coach Ron Wilson, whose team has given up eight goals in its last three third periods. "It's like a virus."

Carolina rallied for three goals in the third period, with Jeff O'Neill firing the game-winner with 5:03 remaining, directly after the Capitals failed to score on a four-minute man advantage.

O'Neill, who had been smothered by Jeff Halpern and his linemates for 55 minutes, managed to shift on to the ice against the Caps' fourth line and beat goalie Olie Kolzig (25 saves) for the game-winning goal.

Goals by Carolina's Sami Kapanen (one on the power play) at 4:27 and 7:26 set the stage.

"When you're up two goals in the third, you feel a little too good about yourself," said O'Neill. "We've been there. And when it happens, you don't work as hard. But I think we did some good things, too. They didn't get in our end as much in that final period."

Bondra's goal had broken a scoreless tie and in the minutes that followed, the Capitals' defense played the way it had in the second half of last season, when it was the best in the league.

But by the time last night was over, Caps defenseman Calle Johansson was left mumbling, "It's bad. It's bad. It's bad."

Washington (5-9-2) is nine points behind Carolina in the division race and must turn around and play another Southeast Division foe, Atlanta, here tomorrow night. The Thrashers are just 3-8-1-2, but they shut out the Caps, 1-0, Oct. 26 in Atlanta.

Though the Caps didn't play particularly well in last night's first period, they did outshoot Carolina, 13-4, in the period but ran into tough goaltending in Barrasso. Barrasso is returning to the NHL after sitting out a year to be with his daughter Ashley, 14, who is recovering from cancer. Since coming back, Barrasso (34 saves) has played strong hockey and was demonstrating his ability again last night.

But Adam Oates hit the goal post while on the power play with 27.4 seconds left in the opening period and, when the Caps emerged for the second period, they immediately took charge.

Bondra scored his 12th goal of the season on that slap shot at 13:34 and about seven minutes later, Dahlen refused to give up on the puck as he was falling backward and scored on the power play.

With Kolzig playing a strong net game, it looked like the Caps were on their way.

But the Capitals have not had their full lineup since the third game of this season and has lost 20 man-games to injury over the first 15 games. They'll lose a lot more before things get totally better. It will be February before left wing Steve Konowalchuk is scheduled to return from shoulder surgery. And earlier this week, right wing Jaromir Jagr (knee) speculated it could be two weeks before he is able to return at full strength.

Last night, Oates (bruised foot) returned after missing two games, but defenseman Brendan Witt (foot) was scratched and Ken Klee suffered undetermined internal injuries.

Carolina 0 0 3 - 3

Washington 0 2 0 - 2

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