- The Washington Times - Friday, October 27, 2000


BOSTON It may not be the absolute low point, Washington Capitals goalie Craig Billington said last night, but the bottom of the barrel was clearly in sight.

The Caps collapsed early and late against a fired-up Boston team and absorbed a 4-1 defeat that would have been much worse had it not been for Billington.

The game marked the opening of the Mike Keenan era as Bruins coach, and the Caps (1-4-3-1) did nothing to stand in the way of a pleasant start for the veteran, now directing his sixth NHL club. That was not lost on the Caps' coaching staff.

The dressing room was closed long after the game ended, but loud voices berating the players in easily understood terms could be heard through brick walls. They were not pleasant words; they questioned the character of individuals who masqueraded as teammates.

Actually, the game was over 3:14 into the first period, after P.J. Axelsson and Jason Allison each scored for Boston with the Caps offering no opposition. Allison, the former Cap, cruised down the right side carrying the puck and was virtually untouched as he came within 10 feet of the goalie before unloading.

"We knew they were going to come out strong and they did exactly that," Billington said. "When you play catch-up hockey so many times, it's going to catch up to you, and I think that's what we saw tonight. We need to start establishing our game early and until we do that, we're going to have a difficult time.

"Let's just say this is low," he answered when asked if this was the Caps' low point. "I have seen too much to know where things can go. Let's just say this is certainly not a high point."

Said coach Ron Wilson: "We were right back on our heels right off the bat," "We talked about being ready, that that team would come out emotional… . We caved under the pressure the first half of the first period and if not for Billington, the score would have been lopsided in the first period."

Nonetheless, the Caps were not out of it midway through the third period, thanks to a nice goal from wing Joe Sacco, a native of nearby Medford, narrowing the margin to 2-1. But wing Joe Murphy, the former Bruin, took a very bad double minor in the third, Boston converted both ends, and Keenan was a winner in his first try.

"We take two unnecessary penalties on the same play, and the game's over just as you're getting back into it," Wilson said. "We have done this a number of times this year. It's getting very frustrating."

In fact, it was the second time Washington had given up two goals in the first three minutes and the fifth time the club had surrendered a goal within the opening four minutes. The Caps have been playing catch-up since Oct. 6 when the season began.

Wilson threatened to throw Chris Simon into the breach tonight in Columbus, which would certainly be a test for the left wing, even though he said he was ready to try to play 7-8 minutes. Simon just ended a 46-day holdout and has practiced with the team only once. Nonetheless, Wilson said, dire measures are now called for.

Notes Caps owner Ted Leonsis took in the game at the FleetCenter, saying he wanted to "follow the team for a while." …

The Caps solved their problem with the roster limit yesterday they were one over by assigning center Glen Metropolit to Portland, Maine, in the American League after he cleared waivers. Metropolit played in just three games this season with no points, and the coaching staff was dissatisfied with his defensive play. He was with the team for 30 games last season as a 25-year-old rookie and also played 48 games in Portland, where he had 60 points… .

Right wing Terry Yake played his first Caps game last night after being recalled from Portland… . Right wing Richard Zednik served the third of his four-game suspension and will be eligible to return Sunday night in Philadelphia… . The Caps' coaches will conduct a symposium for area coaches from 7 to 10 p.m. on Nov. 7 at the Grand Hyatt conference theater in Washington. Call 202/266-2229 for details.

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