Canadiens persevere, beat Caps

Washington's Wilson calls 5-3 loss `disgusting'


January 24, 2002|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - The Washington Capitals and Montreal Canadiens have been playing the same kind of hockey over the first half of this NHL season, with both teams struggling to reach .500 and muscle their way into playoff spots.

Last night at the MCI Center, the Capitals were in control early, but lost, 5-3. Every time they seemed about to build a lead, Montreal came back and came back until, finally, two former Capitals, Joe Juneau and Jan Bullis, teamed up for the game-winning goal with 3:23 to play.

"We stayed with the game plan, even though we fell behind three times," said Juneau, a smile lighting his face. "It shows a lot. For me and my line, it was a tough night. Almost every shift we were against [Adam] Oates and [Jaromir] Jagr, and on the power play they add [Peter] Bondra and [Sergei] Gonchar. You have to be on top of your game every minute."

When Gonchar turned over the puck in front of the Capitals' goal with about 3:30 to play, all that was left for the Canadiens (21-21-7-2) was to circle around for the decisive blow.

With a Washington defenseman trying to catch up, Bullis got off a shot that drew goalie Olie Kolzig (23 saves) to his right. The puck, however, veered left, where Juneau was able to whisk it into the net over the scrambling Kolzig.

Montreal's Chad Kilger added an open-net goal for the final margin and Montreal goalie Jose Theodore made 30 saves.

"You hear the guys on television talking about how we have to score more goals," said Caps coach Ron Wilson. "It isn't goals, it's defense. We've got to stop the other team from scoring. Tonight, they had five, well, four goals, and that team shouldn't score two against us. It's disgusting.

"We played well enough to win, but then we make elementary mistakes at key times in the third period.

"They took advantage of our weaknesses - the area in front of the net, clearing in front of the net, knowing where the puck is, knowing where your man is. ... We have so many injuries, you can't bench anyone. But, at some point we'll get a bunch of healthy bodies back."

The Capitals saw leads of 1-0 and 2-1 disappear before Matt Pettinger grabbed a rebound and smacked the puck past Theodore's left hip for a 3-2 lead.

That's when the Caps were supposed to clamp down defensively. But, again, it was a former Cap coming through for Montreal. This time it was Richard Zednik, who had already assisted on Gino Odjick's goal that tied the game at 2 with 34.7 seconds left in the second period. With 6:32 to go in the third, Zednik made it 3-3.

"There are no excuses," said the Caps' Ulf Dahlen, who assisted on Washington's first goal by Rob Zettler (his first goal since Feb. 18, 1997), scored its second and nearly had another on a power-play pass from Jagr.

"When we have the lead, especially [near] the end of the game, we have to win," Dahlen said.

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Washington 1 1 1 - 3

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