- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 9, 2001


There was a point in the third period last night when Pittsburgh goalie Jean-Sebastien Aubin, who hadn't started a game in six weeks, knew he had to make a big stop to make a statement for his team.

"I needed to make a great save to help the guys believe in themselves and I did it with about two minutes in," said Aubin. "It was [Richard] Zednik, right in the slot, a one-timer. I saved that one and I think that gave a boost for our guys to score a couple goals."

Which is precisely what happened.

Robert Lang and Ian Moran scored within 40 seconds of each other seven minutes into the third period and the Washington Capitals long night was just beginning. The final was 5-3 Pittsburgh, and Martin Straka completed his hat trick with an empty net goal.

And Mario Lemieux? He had two assists last night, has 14 points in five games and is probably wondering why he retired in the first place. Oh, and the Penguins are 4-1 in his comeback. It was his first-ever game at MCI Center and he appears to like it as much as he liked the USAirways Arena, where he spent some of his finest hours.

It was a huge letdown for the Caps, who scored three times in the middle period to take a 3-2 lead. However the Caps committed those familiar mistakes in the third period, many of which have led to discouraging defeats at the hands of the Penguins in the past.

"Actually, we do pretty well against them," Aubin said, trying to be charitable. "It may be our style which is good against that team but is not good against other teams, like Montreal. We don't play well against them this year or any year."

Lemieux played 21 minutes last night, two less than he is averaging, and immediately after the game appeared fresh.

"It just seems that every time we have a chance to score, late in a game or in key situations, we seem to score on them," Lemieux said of his team's success against the Caps. "That's how it's been for the last few years, especially in the playoffs and down the stretch. Sometimes we create turnovers when the game is tied or we're down by one and put a lot of pressure on them."

Lemieux didn't have to have that big a game last night because the second line, which had been silent for a few weeks, came to life. Straka and Lang accounted for four goals and Moran scored, by his estimate, for the first time in 374 days. The record book shows it was his first goal since Dec. 29, 1999, against you guessed it the Caps in Washington.

"We were right where we wanted to be," Lemieux said of his team's attitude after two periods and trailing by a goal. "They scored on a 5-on-3 late in the period, I think it was a good road game and everybody felt comfortable we could come back and win the game."

It was not a good night for the Caps, home or away. Center Jeff Halpern sustained a groin injury early in the second period and did not return. And just before the second period ended center Adam Oates was felled when he was cracked across the left side of his face by a high stick wielded by Josef Beranek. There was no call on the obvious high sticking, which didn't help put coach Ron Wilson in a good frame of mind.

Oates, Peter Bondra and Ulf Dahlen put Washington up 3-2 as the second ended and the roof fell in on the Caps in third period.

Lang got free to tie the game 6:41 into the third when Sergei Gonchar pinched and then was tripped trying to come back, which left his side open. Oates lost a faceoff to Lemieux, a rarity, and off that Moran put a 40-foot slapshot past Olie Kolzig at 7:21. It was a shot Kolzig usually stops in his sleep.

"We came up short and we're not happy," left wing Steve Konowalchuk said. "I don't know what we got to do. For some reason they're getting a goal ahead of us every game. We just got to go out and play the way we're playing. We've got to keep believing… . [but] right now we're on the short end of the stick."

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