- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 14, 2000

Washington Capitals coach Ron Wilson yesterday defended his team against claims it failed to show up during a 2-2 tie against the Atlanta Thrashers on Sunday afternoon, but then he came back to the bottom line as he drew it himself.

"We have to find a way to score … We have to find a way to eliminate some of the mistakes," he said after he put the Caps through a short but intense workout in preparation for tonight's game against the Phoenix Coyotes at MCI Center.

The Caps, by Wilson's estimate, outplayed the Thrashers for 55 of the 60 minutes in regulation and for most of the five minutes of overtime. But during the other five minutes Atlanta scored two goals, and these days that is hard for Washington to overcome.

"They come in, play five minutes good, we play 55 minutes good, it's tied and we don't show up? That's not true at all," Wilson said. "We've got to find a way to score, and it seems this year, right now, one mistake is all it takes."

Washington may get some help tonight. Calle Johansson, the Caps' best all-around defenseman, could be available for the first time since Nov. 2. But even with Johansson in the lineup, it has been a hellish season just three wins after 17 games, with many of the losses and ties coming against teams that are usually well below the Caps' normal level of competition.

Wilson cited his team's territorial dominance over Atlanta (slightly more than eight minutes) but then admitted "it doesn't mean I'm happy with the results, but I'm looking for positive things here. The most important statistic is scoring chances, and we're constantly outchancing teams. We have to find a way of converting those chances into goals. We can't wait for the goaltender on the other team to have a bad night."

Wilson said overtime was an example of how bounces are not going the Caps' way as they often did last season.

"We had a couple breakaways, some 2-on-1s, 3-on-1s, but that's the way the game is right now. The puck doesn't go in," he said. "You win the game, you feel completely different… . This time it's 2-2, they never get out of their end in the third period and you feel like [you're] totally defeated… . Like somebody said, it's Atlanta, it's a guaranteed win night, but that's our attitude. That's everybody's attitude, and that's a total lack of respect for Atlanta."

Johansson missed four games with a sore back. Rest and exercises trainer Greg Smith came up with helped strengthen his back and hip muscles.

"It's better. The last three to four days has been a big difference," Johansson said. "Am I ready? I might need a couple more days. We'll see [today]. You always want to play when you're injured. You don't want to sit in the stands or be in the weight room. But it's better to miss three or four games than 20, 30 or 40."

Wilson maintained it was no coincidence that the team's performance suffered while Johansson was out "because I regard Calle as our steadiest defenseman since I've been here. He consistently gives you an effort, skates the puck out of danger, defends very well, especially penalty killing. But definitely we missed him 5-on-5."

Said Johansson: "It doesn't matter who you're missing. Every guy is equally important on this team. We don't have any super, super stars. If you're without a Jaromir Jagr, obviously you miss him."

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