- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 18, 2001

PITTSBURGH The Washington Capitals' story line yesterday was the same as it has been since Game 1, when One Was Enough.

The Caps have been held to two goals in three games while falling behind 2-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. As a result, they resumed the search for some offense during a brief practice yesterday, with coach Ron Wilson reconfiguring three of the four lines but sticking with 11 forwards and seven defensemen, the same combination he used in Monday night's 3-0 loss at Mellon Arena.

Game 4 is tonight at Mellon, while Game 5 is Saturday afternoon at MCI Center.

Washington knew going in that its primary weapon, as it was all season, would have to be the power play, but to date that has been a dismal flop. It has scored on just two of 12 chances. In a pair of two-man advantages in the series, amounting to more than two full minutes, Washington managed just one shot on goaltender Johan Hedberg, a sign of either incredibly efficient defense or grossly incompetent offense.

"That was critical," forward Trevor Linden said yesterday of the missed chances when the Caps had Pittsburgh down two men for 81 seconds Monday night, trailing by only a goal at the time. "There are little situations in the game that are crucial. We know that. We know we left some stuff on the table. The bottom line is we played well, but we got to find the back of the net."

"I think you look at it and say there's a certain frustration, but I don't think we've veered away from our plan," Wilson said. "Maybe we relaxed a little, [happy] we had an opportunity like this. You take it for granted we didn't bear down. We just didn't use the whole ice and inexplicably kept the puck out of Peter Bondra's hands. He's a primary weapon, and he should be used, especially in a 5-on-3 situation. He was open, and we never spread the puck around the way we should. Only two guys touched the puck essentially."

The team that successfully kills a two-man disadvantage, especially a lengthy one, comes away emotionally charged, while the team that fails to score often becomes deflated. In this case, the hole the Caps were trying to escape only got deeper.

"It sort of takes the air out of your sails," Wilson said. "You're having trouble scoring one, and now you've got to score two to tie it and three to win. We can't go into a shell. We've got to try to continue to generate the scoring chances that we did yesterday in the first two periods, maybe get a little lucky around the net, have something hit a leg and go in. They've had a couple pucks that have done that for them. We need a little bit of luck. I've been watching all the other playoff games, and there's a lot of ugly goals going in, and we don't seem to be able to manufacture an ugly goal."

Wilson is correct when he maintains the Caps simply need a few breaks to fall their way. Kevin Stevens scored the game-winner from the slot on a perfect shot from 18 feet out Monday night; Jeff Halpern was in the same spot Monday night with a better chance, but his stick broke when he swung.

For tonight's game, Wilson has Bondra and Linden together with Dainius Zubrus on the right side. Halpern will center Steve Konowalchuk and Ulf Dahlen, Adam Oates is between Chris Simon and Joe Sacco and Andrei Nikolishin will have forward Dmitri Khristich on the left and defenseman Ken Klee on his right.

Trent Whitfield, a top defensive forward but not much of an offensive threat, appeared to be the healthy scratch that lets Khristich back into the lineup. Klee started on wing Monday night, also, but soon shifted back to defense.

So far in the series, the team that has scored first has won, but it has been 110 minutes, 35 seconds since Bondra scored the second of his two power-play goals, the last goal the Caps have scored. And it has been 199 minutes, 28 seconds since Washington last scored an even-strength goal against anybody, early in the third period of the last regular season game.


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