- The Washington Times - Friday, November 10, 2000

RANGERS 5, CAPS 3

For the first 20 minutes last night, things were going very nicely for the Washington Capitals. They scored first, which was a primary goal, they finished checks, they led at the end of the period.

But the New York Rangers are a different team with Mark Messier at the helm. Even the older players seemed to have gained not lost a step since the clubs last met. And like their returning captain, they never ran into a body they didn't want to collide with.

The Rangers turned a one-goal deficit into a 5-3 victory last night at MCI Center, Theoren Fleury scoring a pair including the clincher shorthanded into an empty net. Fleury now has 13 goals this season; last year he had 14 for the entire campaign.

"There was a lot of excitement; there were scoring chances. But against a team like the Rangers, if you make some mental mistakes defensively, which we did, they're going to put the puck away," said Caps coach Ron Wilson. "And we made some bad mistakes. We got caught on some 2-on-1s, we defended them well but we shouldn't be on 2-on-1s… . If you play loose like we did in a few situations, they're going to put the puck away."

The Caps made a variety of errors, some of which ended up in the net behind Olie Kolzig. On New York's first goal, by Valeri Kamensky, Washington got caught in the textbook definition of a horrible line change, and before the team could fully recover the score was tied.

The Rangers scored their second goal off a 2-on-1 when one of the Washington defensemen pinched at the wrong time. On the fourth New York score, the winning goal, Jan Hlavac was close enough to a Caps defender to whisper trade secrets, yet he wasn't touched as he tipped in the backdoor pass.

"We didn't cover the man at the side of the net," Wilson said, "and it's a bang-bang goal. These are things we talked about [Wednesday], we worked on. The things we wanted to defend if we were in a 2-on-1 situation, we defended and we did a good job. But I dread seeing 2-on-1s. We give up more in a game than we gave up in a month last year."

Chris Simon's first goal of the season gave Washington an early lead, and Peter Bondra's first in nine games got the lead back for the Caps. By the time Andrei Nikolishin scored 15 minutes into the third period, that narrowed the deficit to one and set up Fleury's backbreaker.

"It's lucky we had Olie in the first period," said defenseman Sylvain Cote. "He came up with some big saves for us. We gave them a couple breakaways, 2-on-1s, way too many of them. It was just a matter of time before they were going to put it in. When you play against a very offensive team like the New York Rangers are right now, you can't give them any chances. A couple bad plays on defense cost us the game."

The Caps had a chance to tie the game late in the third when presented with a 6-on-4 advantage, but they never got organized enough to muster a shot on Mike Richter, and then Fleury settled the issue.

"We can't make defensive blunders like we did tonight," Wilson summarized.

Notes Bondra was named player of the month for October for going 5-6-11 in 12 games… . If the Caps need help up front due to injuries, one of two guys (or both) might get a look. Center Matt Herr, who played 30 games with the Caps two seasons ago, has 10 goals (including six on the power play) and 15 points in 13 games with Portland, Maine. Left wing Mike Peluso has 10 goals and 17 points, also in 13 games… .

Washington hosts Atlanta on Sunday, and that 3:08 p.m. starting time is not a misprint… . One good thing to say about the Caps' 2-5-4-1 October is that one-quarter of the team's road games this season are history.

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