- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 18, 2001

PITTSBURGH. The Caps are hoping to score a goal in Game 4 tonight.

That would be one small step for them, one giant leap for the series.

The Caps cannot lose tonight and go down 3-1 in the series against the Penguins. They wouldn't have their backs against the wall at that point. They would have their golf bags against the first tee.

The Caps apparently are allergic to scoring. They seem to come down with a rash whenever they go near the net. They see the net and suddenly have an itch to scratch and no free hands to strike the puck with the stick. Maybe they have fleas.

Who let the dogs out?

When you go scoreless as long as the Caps have, it can work on your psyche.

Coach Ron Wilson doesn't need to tinker with his lines anymore. He needs to find a big couch to accommodate all his players. Wilson and the players need to discuss their fears and resolve whatever childhood traumas are lurking in their pasts. Perhaps one of the players did not receive a pony from his parents on his 13th birthday, which is different from Michael Jordan refusing to be a show pony.

The mind is a funny thing.

The Caps do not appear to believe in their worthiness right now. They say they do. They are dispensing the appropriate comments at the moment. But when they are on the ice, their actions reveal a different truth.

The Caps barely showed a pulse while functioning with a two-man advantage in Game 3 Monday night. They managed only one shot on goal in 1:21, and Elvis could have left the building right then. It was over, regardless of the 1-0 score at the time.

Wilson could resort to the Zen master's bag of motivational ploys: incense, pet rocks and the beating of warpath drums from Native American spirits. Chris Simon could help with the latter.

If the head is right, the body will follow, and if the roots are not severed, all is well and all will be well in the garden.

To be fair, the Caps are accomplishing some good stuff on defense.

Mario Lemieux, who is trying to save the Stanley Cup Playoffs after saving hockey in Andy Warhol's hometown, has spent most of the series cultivating his relationship with the four guys in stripes. Lemieux has one goal, one assist, a zillion dives to the ice and an equal number of elbows to the opposition's chops in the three games.

Brendan Witt received a two-minute roughing penalty after brushing against Lemieux in front of the net early in Game 3.

Predictably, Lemieux became spastic after the contact, falling to the ice, twitching uncontrollably, requiring mouth-to-mouth resuscitation from doctors and teammates as well as prayers from the masses. Incredibly, Lemieux recovered soon after Witt was escorted to the penalty box. Given the circumstances, Witt was fortunate not to be ejected from the game and suspended indefinitely.

As it turns out, you can throw the seedings out the window. You can throw out Kevin Stevens, too, if you have the guts.

It seems the Penguins have reinvented themselves. As celebrated as their offense was going into the series, the Penguins have scored only five goals in the three games, eschewing offense to complete the dirty work on defense. They can bump, grind, shake, rattle and roll with the best. In fact, so far, the Penguins are more competent at it than the Caps.

Johan Hedberg, the 27-year-old rookie goalie who was expected to be in therapy after three playoff games, is gaining confidence and praise as the series progresses. He even might have to make a tough save before the series is concluded.

As it is, the Caps are the ones who could use a good shrink or a stiff drink.

One goal would be nice.

Two would be even better.

Now, Team Torpor, take a deep breath and relax.

Close your eyes and imagine the possibilities.

See the stick, puck and net.

They are your friends.

Swing the stick back and hit the puck with all your might.

The Caps shoot; they score.

End of session.

No charge. You're welcome.

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