- The Washington Times - Friday, March 16, 2001


Discombobulating. That's the only way to describe it.

The Washington Capitals last night were trying to insert three new players into the lineup, the newcomers were trying to impress their new teammates, the Caps were trying to impress the newcomers, coach Ron Wilson was trying to find the proper place for everybody to play all resulting in a most discombobulating evening.

Carolina scored on its third and fifth shots and outplayed the Caps nearly every step of the way in a 3-0 victory. It was only the second time this season the Caps have lost back-to-back home games.

It also was the second straight game in which the Caps have been shut out. Washington has gone 121 minutes, 28 seconds without a goal, its longest stretch of the season.

Thus the magic number for Washington to clinch its second straight Southeast Division title remains at 12 any total of Caps points gained or Hurricanes points lost totaling 12 and the Caps would have home ice for the first round of the playoffs.

How bad was it? For a span of 1:13 at the end of the second and start of the third periods, Washington had a two-man advantage and could not control the puck. They were outshot 1-0 during their own 5-on-3 advantage.

The Hurricanes earlier had overlapping 5-on-3s, one for two minutes, one for 1:48. They got off six shots and scored once, just enough to put the game on ice. And Carolina had played and lost the night before traveling here.

"We didn't compete hard enough it's that simple," Wilson said. "Our power play was [awful], and that was really the biggest disappointment of the game. It was our first power play [2:36 into the game] that completely shifted the momentum. We didn't even come close to doing what we practice. If we're not going to be patient and move the puck around on our power play, you're going to get what you saw tonight. Some people haven't played well for a couple games now, and they have to pick up their games."

Washington still has the best home power play in the league, but its advantage over other teams is slipping. That is a direct result of scoring just once in its last 16 opportunities. The Caps went 0-for-8 last night, with six of those advantages coming in the first two periods, when they managed just three shots, the same number as Carolina got short-handed.

Very little Washington did last night went right. The Caps tripped over one another, banged off each other, at times looking like a disorganized group of guys who just happened to get off the same Amtrak car at the same time and decided to play a little hockey. Passes couldn't be completed, linemates went offside and players swiped at pucks attempting to shoot and just plain missed.

Carolina goalie Arturs Irbe, who played in his 65th game of the season last night, had an easy assignment certainly far easier than he might have anticipated. He faced fewer shots (25) than counterpart Olie Kolzig (26), had few difficult chances and was guarded better than Fort Knox, at least compared to the support Kolzig got.

It was the simple mistakes by the Caps who rarely make them that were the most costly. For instance, eight minutes into the first period, defenseman Calle Johansson fanned when he went to clear a puck from Kolzig's crease. Jeff O'Neill lunged forward and poked it in for the first Carolina score, a power-play goal.

Four minutes into the second period Rod Brind'Amour picked a puck off the back boards and faced Kolzig from 25 feet. Kolzig eats those shots for lunch; last night it ate him.

O'Neill scored again late in the second with a two-man advantage, with Brendan Witt serving a double minor and newcomer Trevor Linden also off for high sticking. That Carolina didn't score more while up by a pair was to Kolzig's credit.

Notes Defenseman Dmitri Mironov (back surgery) was the only injured Cap last night, but there were four healthy scratches: defensemen Ken Klee and Rob Zettler and forwards Chris Simon and Brantt Myhres. Backup goalie Craig Billington came off injured reserve after being out six games with a bruised hand and was on the bench… . Carolina center Ron Francis, 38, recorded his 1,000th point with the Hurricanes franchise the other night; he has more than 1,600 points in his NHL career, fifth on the all-time list.

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