- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 7, 2002

UNIONDALE, N.Y. This was not a good night for the Washington Capitals to be the featured guest at Nassau Coliseum. It was like inviting a turkey to drop by the house for the fourth Thursday in November.
The New York Islanders had several years of frustration building. They hadn't beaten the Caps since Rod Langway was in knickers, or thereabouts. They hadn't made the playoffs since the first Clinton administration. They had all these old Islanders in the building yesterday for an alumni bash, and some of those guys earned four Stanley Cup rings as Islanders.
Despite a three-goal third-period rally, Washington lost 5-4, with all the frustrations and shortcomings of a seemingly doomed and vastly disappointing season coming forth. It was the first time the Islanders had beaten the Caps since March 2, 1997, breaking a Washington run of 19-0-3. And New York clinched its first playoff berth since 1994.
The possibilities of Washington also making the postseason are as dim as ever. The Caps have 80 points and three games left. The potential to finish with 86 points is present, but the door for others has been left wide open. Montreal has a game in hand and the lead for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. Carolina has two games in hand and a three-point lead in the race for the Southeast Division title.
"It's kind of sad. We got ourselves in a big hole, and when we finally started playing good, everybody else was playing good," the Caps' Jaromir Jagr said. "There's nothing you can do right now. It's our fault. It's not over yet, and you never know what's going to happen."
Coach Ron Wilson had been saying for some time that the Caps needed help to pull off an improbable climb from nowhere into the postseason. They need more than that now. They need to run the table and have one or two other teams collapse.
"I thought we played an outstanding game, but you have to credit their goaltender, [Chris] Osgood, for keeping them in the game early and making a lot of big saves," Wilson said. "When the score was 2-1, we had a number of chances, then we lost a little bit defensively."
The march down the final few weeks has been slow and painful, and the Islanders made it more so last night. They held a 2-1 lead after one period, then scored twice again in the second. To open the third, Michael Peca, who has been trouble for years, ripped a shot from a tough angle into the net between the pipe and Olie Kolzig's right elbow.
That was it. There was plenty of time left, but the game was over and probably the Caps' season with it.
Rookie defenseman Nolan Yonkman scored with about 12 minutes to play, his first in the NHL, Jagr added his 31st and Glen Metropolit picked a great time to score his first but all that did was make the score respectable.
As was the case Friday night against Ottawa, a game that ended in a goalless draw, Washington had an excellent opportunity to put the Islanders in a quick hole but couldn't pull the trigger. Jagr and Dainius Zubrus broke in on a 2-on-1 in the first 30 seconds and were on top of Osgood, but that was the problem. They were too close, there was one too many passes and no shot as both skated past the cage.
But starting at 11:10 pucks found the mark three times in less than two minutes. Washington scored first on a power play when Peter Bondra stopped the puck from leaving the zone, catching the Islanders going the wrong way thinking they had a short-handed breakout. Instead, Bondra's back pass left Jagr and Dmitri Khristich alone in front of Osgood, with Khristich lifting it over the goalie.
But less than 40 seconds later Oleg Kvasha tied the game, letting go a hard wrist shot from the hash marks that appeared to go off one of Kolzig's pads and through his legs for the first goal he had allowed in 111 minutes, 33 seconds. And on the next Islanders shot, just 1:18 after the first, light-scoring Eric Cairns ripped a shot from the top of the right circle through Kolzig.
Woulda, coulda, shoulda. Sixteen minutes into the opening period, Caps left wing Chris Simon had a clean breakaway with time to corral the puck and line up a shot. He missed the net. To show it was no mistake, he had a power-play breakaway in the second period and shot high.
It was that kind of night.

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