Creative Caps find way to lose

Ahead by 2, Washington falls to Leafs, 3-2, leaves Wilson, Jagr steaming


March 05, 2002|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Jaromir Jagr hadn't complained once this season and Washington Capitals coach Ron Wilson had rarely unloaded on his team. But last night, after a two-goal lead turned into a 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, both men seemed to have had enough.

"Totally dumb, this game," Jagr said. "We were totally dominating. We had a lot of chances -- and then we blew it."

The Caps are in a fight for their playoff lives. Last night, against the third-best team in the Eastern Conference, Jagr showed his brilliance in an amazing display of talent and timing in the first period to set up Sergei Gonchar for the game's first goal.

Then, using a little guile, he sneaked away from Toronto's defense to get himself wide-open and in perfect position to put the Capitals up 2-0 at the 1:35 mark of the second period.

Washington was dominating the game and doing it, noted Wilson, despite being held, hacked and tripped with impunity.

"To see what someone like Jaromir Jagr has to go through to try to get behind the net, or Peter Bondra, basically, get hauled down ... it makes you want to shake your head, that's all," Wilson said.

"We were spending all our time in the other team's zone, and we get one power play at home for the fifth or sixth time this year. And we wonder why there is no offense.

"One of their players didn't have a stick or a glove and is draped all over somebody, but it isn't a penalty."

But, Wilson said, that's not why the Caps lost the game.

After forging the 2-0 lead, the Caps failed to kill a Toronto penalty. Yes, they had some bad luck on the goal -- it went in off Caps defenseman Brendan Witt -- but when every game is like a playoff game, Washington has to kill that penalty.

And on Toronto's second goal, Wilson was steaming.

"Instead of it being 2-0 and us plowing forward the way we were, it's 2-1 and the momentum in the game shifted," he said.

"Then, we didn't play a three-on-two properly and we had a couple guys who didn't even bother to back-check. The next thing you know, it's 2-2.

"You can't have that. We can't make mental mistakes like that at this point in the season and then turn around and say that we really want to dig in and win.

"Some guys let their teammates down big-time tonight. It's not scoring, it's back-checking, stopping the other team from scoring; that's what is most important. In games like this, you better damn well back-check."

Sylvain Cote, Chris Simon, Peter Bondra, Dmitri Khristich and Frantisek Kucera were on the ice when Paul Healey, playing in just his 12th NHL game, scored his first career goal to tie the game at 2.

"We got what we deserved," Wilson said.

The goal that won the game was also an easy goal.

Washington goalie Olie Kolzig (25 saves) made impossible stops on hard shots all night. And when he was out of position, drawn away by a driving Maple Leaf, his teammates stepped in to make big, goal-saving plays.

Defenseman Jean-Francois Fortin cleared the puck when it dropped just behind Kolzig's leg after a blind save in the first period. And Gonchar, Steve Konowalchuk and Cote built a wall in the crease in the second.

But when Toronto's Robert Reichel, left open just inside the Caps' zone, unloaded a straightforward blast at Kolzig's catching glove 4:27 into the third period, there was nothing to do.

One-on-one, Reichel beat Kolzig, sending the puck an inch over the big goalie's glove for a 3-2 lead.

All of it nearly made Jagr sick. He has been finding his game over the past several weeks, producing eight goals and 19 points in his past 10 games. And he said it doesn't matter at all when his team loses.

He didn't want to criticize his teammates and he didn't want to delve into Wilson's comments on some players letting others down.

But he seemed genuinely mystified by the turn this game had taken.

"To me," he said, "it was like we just stopped playing. If we had played the same way we had been playing, no one would have had to back-check because Toronto wouldn't have had the puck. We had been dominating. I think we thought we had it won."

Toronto goalie Corey Schwab might have agreed, though he had a solid night, stopping 27 Caps shots.

The Caps will try to right themselves tomorrow against Calgary at the MCI Center. Calgary, like Washington, is in a desperate fight to qualify for the postseason.

Toronto 0 2 1 -- 3

Washington 1 1 0 -- 2

First period -- 1, Washington, Gonchar 20 (Jagr), 15:23. Penalty--Gonchar, Was (holding), 18:59.

Second period -- 2, Washington Jagr 23 (Oates, Cote), 1:35. 3, Toronto, McCabe 13, 13:06 (pp). 4, Toronto, Healey 1 (Sundin, McCauley), 15:27. Penalties -- Corson, Tor (high-sticking), 7:23; Pettinger, Was (roughing), 7:23; Roberts, Tor (roughing), 8:27; Khristich, Was (interference), 11:27.

Third period -- 5, Toronto, Reichel 15 (Roberts, Cross), 4:27. Penalties -- None.

Shots on goal -- Toronto 9-11-8--28. Washington 9-12-8--29. Power-play opportunities -- Toronto 1 of 2; Washington 0 of 1. Goalies -- Toronto, Schwab 5-6-1 (29 shots-27 saves). Washington, Kolzig 21-25-6 (28-25). A -- 15,186 (18,672).

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