- The Washington Times - Friday, April 14, 2000

Washington Capitals coach Ron Wilson said he thought he saw some positive things concerning his team in the third period Thursday night. It was about time, because there was nothing positive to see about the first two periods.

The Caps suffered the worst loss of their playoff existence Thursday night in a 7-0 loss to a quicker Pittsburgh team, and lost their home-ice advantage after Game 1 in this best-of-7 Eastern Conference first-round series.

Game 2 and 3 will be in Pittsburgh because of the format being reconfigured because of scheduling conflicts at Mellon Arena, and the Penguins could come out with a huge advantage.

If Washington could be embarrassed in this matter at home, where it lost only seven of 41 games all season, what does Mellon hold in store?

It was the first time in six playoff series against Pittsburgh that Washington did not win the opening game.

"It just happened what can you say?" Wilson said. "You tear the page off the calendar and throw it away and we look forward to the next game. We've got our work cut out for us, obviously, [because] the next two games are in Pittsburgh. We're going to have to go in there and get at least a split if not a sweep or we're going to be in serious trouble.

"We can't think like that, put all that pressure on ourselves, we just got to go and play our game. Tonight we didn't play our game, except for two or three minutes early in the first period."

It was a disaster from the start. Alexei Kovalev sliced a shot off the right post less than a minute into the game, and that was the signal something was badly amiss. The Pittsburgh center never should have been that open to get off a shot like that so early in the game.

It took almost no time at all for Washington to pay for its sins. About 90 seconds after the Kovalev blast, Janne Laukkenen let loose a slap shot from the right circle that ripped in under Olie Kolzig's arm, and the onslaught had started. It got uglier as the team defense in front of the goalie grew even weaker. That was followed by a series of mindless penalties as the sellout crowd of 18,672 grew restless.

"Obviously, the game was a disaster," Wilson said. "It's certainly not the way we scripted the game to go."

The coach preached all week about how dangerous it would be to face Pittsburgh in 4-on-4 situations or to give the Penguins too many power-play chances. Wilson might well have been speaking to the residents of the National Zoo, because he seemingly made no impression on the players.

Pittsburgh's first, fourth and fifth goals came with both sides skating with one man in the penalty box. The Penguins' second, third and seventh goals came with Washington trying vainly to kill penalties. Only Tyler Wright's goal 13 minutes into the middle period came with both teams skating five aside.

"We found and this is something we talked about we don't want to play them 4-on-4 or we put ourselves in a bad hole, and we don't want to be taking silly penalties, and we took some bad penalties in the first period and we were behind the 8-ball," Wilson said.

The Penguins said at least three of their players sustained injuries to various degrees during the game as a result of Washington hits but left it up to the league to address the problem.

Among those in attendance Thursday night: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

Notes The Caps had three healthy scratches, forwards Jim McKenzie and Mike Eagles and defenseman Dmitri Mironov. There were also three injury scratches, Trevor Halverson (concussion), James Black (broken leg) and Jan Bulis (dislocated shoulder)… . Among the Penguins' scratches was former Cap Steve Leach.

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