- The Washington Times - Monday, April 17, 2000

PITTSBURGH Apparently taking Washington Capitals coach Ron Wilson out to the ballpark didn't help his mood. After spending several hours watching the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Mets play at Three Rivers Stadium yesterday, Wilson doesn't care if he ever goes back.

The coach has too many other things on his mind right now to enjoy a day of baseball. His Caps are down 2-0 in their best-of-seven series vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins and his mood remained somber.

"I mean, why are we suddenly the bad guys? What did we do during the regular season to bring this down upon us?" he demanded in a loud voice in the lobby of a downtown hotel, temporarily startling a few dozens guests who were headed for a wedding reception.

The Caps are in what amounts to a must-win situation in Game 3 tonight at Mellon Arena. If the Caps lose, they would have to win four straight against Ron Tugnutt, a very hot goalie, and a very confident Penguins team that beat the Caps 2-1 in overtime Saturday. The odds are slim that any team could pull that off.

Wilson continues to seethe over what he feels are an unfair number of calls that the officials are making against his team. He also is upset at the officials refusal to cite Pittsburgh star Jaromir Jagr when he whacked Cap defenseman Ken Klee on the head with his stick Saturday night.

Washington general manager George McPhee said last night he had not asked for an official league probe, but he wanted to be on record warning against possible double standards. Such standards existed in years past and helped to protect players such as Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.

"We did not formally request a league review of that incident, we simply wanted to have a discussion with the league regarding the incident to make sure a double standard is not in play and that that player must be penalized like every other player is penalized for that infraction," McPhee said. "The league agreed with us, everyone we talked to agreed with us and hopefully that standard will be the one standard for everybody in the league and will be enforced throughout the series."

"We worked so hard as a group to get home ice and we almost finish first in our conference and we're being treated like we shouldn't be here," Wilson said. "That's how our players feel, not just me. We had an outstanding regular season that right now basically doesn't count. This is laughable."

It is the non-call against Jagr, the reigning league scoring champion, that has Wilson, the team and others so riled.

The incident occurred with 33 seconds left in regulation when Klee nailed the star right wing with a two-hander across the arms and Jagr turned and struck Klee with his stick, a two-handed blow that landed on the top right side of the helmet. Klee got two minutes for slashing, Jagr got nothing.

Wilson said the on-site supervisor told him that Jagr's action was a reaction to Klee's slash. Wilson said his reaction to that explanation was that it was still against the rules in the NHL to hit somebody else on top of the head with your stick, no matter what the reason.

The incident grew to even larger proportions when Klee was called for obstruction holding, a marginal call, 5:08 into overtime. Jagr won the game on the ensuing power play. Even the Pittsburgh media expressed amazement over the penalty call against Klee in overtime.

"It doesn't make any sense the number of [obstructions] that were let go in regulation that you finally have to call one in overtime, especially when [Olie Kolzig] had the puck," Wilson fumed. "If you're going to call obstruction interference at the blue line and allow their best player to hit one of your better defensemen over the head with a stick and say it wasn't a vicious hit … [Jagr] hit [Klee] in the head with a stick, that is undeniable and that is a penalty. And the type of officiating [that ignores that] is unacceptable to me."

At the Penguins' practice facility yesterday, coach Herb Brooks said he has known Wilson for a long time and is unfazed by the uproar.

"Ronnie's an old friend [but] Ronnie is being Ronnie," Brooks said. "I don't even stop to think about [the tirade], I've known him too long."

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