- The Washington Times - Friday, November 9, 2001

For 44 minutes last night it was the type of game that the Washington Capitals are known tight-checking, low-scoring, the opposition under control and frustrated.
Then, as if somebody flicked a switch, it all changed and the depressing mystery of this Caps' team deepened.
Carolina extended its lead in the Southeast Division to nine points over the Caps last night by rallying from a two-goal, third period deficit for a 3-2 victory, leaving Washington thoroughly demoralized and questioning itself.
"I thought we had hit rock bottom but I guess there are a couple more floors going down," said team owner Ted Leonsis. "It was a 2-0 lead with 18 minutes left in the game and then not to score [on the power play], it was very painful. But they hit bottom, now we just pick up where we left off and try to get back on the winning ways come Saturday. But these games aren't fun."
The Caps are now winless in six (0-5-1) and don't appear to be doing much right. Even when they scored the first goal last night, something they have done only four times this season, they ended up losing, defying lopsided league statistics by failing to win.
"It's awful discouraging, that's about all you can say," said coach Ron Wilson. "We played great through two periods and probably the first five minutes of the third … and we didn't get the job done killing a penalty. That unnerved us for whatever reason and the things we did for most of the game we stopped doing. Again, one of our lines got lost in our end and [Carolina] made a good play. We were trying to neutralize those guys but we didn't. It's 2-2 and it's like the wheels fell off."
To recap, the Caps bottled the Hurricanes up for two periods, allowing the visitors just 12 shots. Peter Bondra scored 6:26 into the second and Ulf Dahlen scored at 13:20 on a power play for a 2-0 lead. to a perfect game for 40 minutes.
Unfortunately, there were 20 minutes left, and in those 20 minutes the Caps were outshot 16-11 and outscored 3-0. It was as if two different teams dressed for the game and the varsity took the third period off.
"There are no excuses to be made, we know we blew it," said wing Joe Sacco.
"It's really disappointing that we can't give it a 60-minute effort, especially when it's a big game," said Dahlen.
The two of them, plus center Jeff Halpern, were the line victimized for Sami Kapanen's crucial second goal, coming at 7:26 of the third. The Hurricanes line outworked the Caps line down low, constantly regaining position, Washington unable to control long enough to clear. Jeff O'Neill got the winner for the Hurricanes with five minutes left, a slap shot from the left circle that Olie Kolzig stops 99 times out of 100 tries.
"Defensive breakdowns and that's mental," Wilson replied when asked what happened. "You have to be ready. We were in the driver's seat. We still had a 2-1 lead more than half way through the third period. We should be able to play hard, play hard right through it. They scored a power-play goal, big deal. They hardly had any chances up to that point."
Understandably, Carolina coach Paul Maurice saw it differently.
"It's amazing what a power-play goal will do for you," he said. "It will make you feel good and we got to the body a lot better in the third period [and] that was the big difference between the first two."
Even more depressing for the Caps, they may have lost still another defenseman. Ken Klee left the game in the first period with what was described as "an internal injury" and did not return. Brendan Witt was out last night with a leg injury and two others are playing with assorted injuries.


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