- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 28, 2001

BLACKHAWKS 3, CAPS 2

If the two teams had changed sweaters, the faithful who come to MCI Center for Washington Capitals' games would have sworn their team won the game. The Chicago Blackhawks looked just like what fans have come to expect from their Caps.

And the result was the same, too. The Blackhawks, playing like Washington has since the first of the year, refused to back down and rocked the Caps for the second time this season 3-2. Chicago did not look like a team with only an outside shot at a playoff spot.

So, for a night at least, Washington's momentum has been stopped. It was the Caps' first loss since Jan. 27, a 4-2 embarrassment in Montreal. In between the club ran off 10 wins and two ties, its third-longest unbeaten streak on the books, but that's now gone, along with a five-game winning streak and a seven-game home unbeaten streak (6-0-1).

Nonetheless, it was a near-perfect month for Washington. The Caps finished February with a record of 9-1-1-0, a winning percentage of .864. That is a fraction better than the club's performance in January 2000, when it went 11-1-2 for a percentage of .857.

One streak that did continue belongs to center Adam Oates, who had an assist in the first period and a goal in the second to extend his point streak to 11 games, currently the longest in the NHL and the longest by a Cap this season. The 38-year-old has three goals and 13 assists during his run.

But Washington lost last night because, simply put, it did not play well, not nearly as well as Chicago did. There were numerous odd-man rushes, something the Caps had all but eliminated weeks ago, and there were players uncovered at key spots on the ice where excellent chances were available. In short, the Caps looked much like the rebuilding team the Blackhawks are supposed to be.

"No, not at all," defenseman Calle Johansson said when asked if it was a good performance. "It was terrible, a terrible game. We didn't do the things we usually do good, and it cost us. We didn't skate. We looked sluggish. No excuses but we won a few in a row and played really well, so I don't think we should get too down. We should obviously look at it and re-evaluate but as far as getting too down on ourselves, I don't think so. But it was bad."

Washington had been feeding and winning off of its power play at home, hitting at better than 28 percent going into the game, but last night the Caps were awarded only two chances with the extra man, and one of those lasted just 78 seconds. Neither was successful, although Washington had several excellent opportunities on the first. Chicago goalie Jocelyn Thibault was the difference in killing that penalty and proved to be the difference the rest of the night with his defenders keeping the Caps away from the net.

"They played more like us than we did," Johansson said. "They played like we did in the past not pretty but it works. That's the way you have to play to win."

Right wing Steve Sullivan, let go by Toronto, got his 30th and 31st goals, well on his way to earning the $3 million the Blackhawks are paying him. Eric Daze, who was available for the asking coming out of training camp and offered around the league, got the third Blackhawks goal.

For the Caps, Dmitri Khristich lifted his own rebound into the cage at 15:38 of the first, tying the game, and Oates scored on a casual shot that glanced off Thibault's mask and into the net to tie the game in the second.

The Caps had no answer for Sullivan's second of the night off another breakaway, however.

Defenseman Rob Zettler was injured in the first period and did not return. Defenseman Joe Reekie was already out with an assortment of bumps and bruises, so Washington called up Todd Rohloff in case both veterans are unable to go tomorrow night against Toronto.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide