Light-scoring Blues dump Caps, 4-1

Defense-oriented game fails, as St. Louis romps

Hockey

January 31, 2002|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Washington Capitals coach Ron Wilson has tried a little bit of everything to jump-start his hockey team in this disappointing, injury-riddled season.

Last night, Wilson again pulled out the unusual three-defensemen, two-forward lineup, hoping to repeat the team's success with it against the St. Louis Blues, who had scored just three times in their previous three games, all losses.

But the Blues scored the first goal and by the end of the second period were running away for a 4-1 victory, leaving the Caps' defense-oriented lineup pummeled.

"I just can't believe it," said Caps superstar Jaromir Jagr. "It looks like it cannot get any worse. We are like Internet stocks. ... I don't know what to say. It can't get any worse than tonight."

Jagr looked almost dazed. Only after practice Tuesday, he had said, "Don't count us out yet."

Last night, when asked if he still felt that way, he lifted his gaze from the floor but said little.

"I don't want to say anything," he said. "We were in the game, but it was only a matter of time. We didn't have any chances. I really don't want to say anything."

The Caps had been in the game. The teams exchanged goals, with Cory Stillman putting the Blues on the board and Colin Forbes scoring shorthanded for the Caps.

But once Pavol Demitra scored at 3:40 of the second period, Washington's wheels came off.

At 11:30, Demitra scored a power-play goal, and you could see the Caps deflate all along their bench. When the Blues' Mike Eastwood scored the fourth goal, a large sign was waved among the MCI Center crowd of 17,100. It read simply, "We're sick of this."

Added defenseman Ken Klee: "We were in there. Then we made mental mistakes. I don't know if guys think bad things will happen and then they make the mistakes that make bad things happen, or what. ... But mental mistakes -- that's where the game is won and lost."

The Caps and their fans will have until 7 p.m. next Wednesday to regroup. That's when Washington returns from this weekend's NHL All-Star break to face the Minnesota Wild.

The Caps, 20-26-8-1 and 12th in the 15-team Eastern Conference, have won just once in seven games, a 1-6-0-1 mark that leaves them 12th in the 15-team Eastern Conference. They are six games under .500 for the first time this season.

"At some point some people have to stand up," Wilson said. "We try to come up with plans every night, and we find a way to excuse ourselves from responsibilities. ...

"You have to wonder how embarrassed you can be? You want to slough off all the responsibility on me, I'll take it, that's fine. But you are a professional athlete, you are paid to perform, paid to compete hard, and we didn't get that from everybody for the full go."

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