- The Washington Times - Monday, February 11, 2002

Coach Ron Wilson all season has been stressing the necessity of the Washington Capitals to score goals at even strength. Now there are statistics to point out that it is more critical now than ever.
An NHL team rarely goes a full game without having an opponent called for an infraction and then go on a power play. But the Caps have had that happen to them twice in the last five games, the most recent example Saturday night during a 4-2 victory over the Lightning in Tampa, Fla.
It happened previously on Jan.27, a home game against Buffalo. In that case, the Caps went a total of 127 minutes, 18 seconds without having the benefit of a power play. The current active streak is a mere 76 minutes, 36 seconds.
The importance? The Caps live and die by special teams. Nearly one-third of the Washington's goals 47 of 156 have come from the power play, which is currently ranked No.1 in the league at 20.7 percent overall. Any time the Caps don't get the chance to use their potent power play, one-third of their scoring potential is negated.
The penalty-killing is improving, which could be a significant factor for Washington as it tries to get into position to challenge for a playoff berth. Nearly one-quarter of the goals the Caps have given up 42 out of 177 have been allowed trying to kill other team's power plays. The unit is now "up" to 20th place with a kill ratio of 83.3 percent; it had been as low as 29th with a success rate of only in the mid 70s.
In their last five games, the Caps have had 10 power plays while their opposition has had 19. Nobody is accusing NHL officials of picking on Washington, rather it is viewed as the officials trying to give both teams a chance to play the game freely with as little interruption as possible, a chance to decide the issues themselves without referees stepping in.
Washington will try to extend its modest three-game unbeaten streak (2-0-1) tonight at MCI Center in its second straight game against Tampa Bay, a team that is even more injury-racked than the Caps.
The Lightning lost two more players Saturday night, center Vinny Lecavalier with a twisted ankle 1:26 into the game and defenseman Jassen Cullimore with a bruised thigh in the third period. Cullimore might be ready; it is thought Lecavalier will not.
Not traveling with Tampa Bay will be Rick Dudley, the team's general manager for almost three seasons. In a surprise development, Dudley resigned yesterday after working out a financial arrangement with Lightning ownership. He reportedly was frustrated by severe financial limitations he was trying to work with.
It was believed throughout the league that Dudley had done an excellent job in his tenure. The team has improved significantly, especially with the acquisition of goalie Nikolai Khabibulin. The team improved 12 points in his first two seasons and would have made an impressive jump this season until it was hit with a staggering series of injuries.
The personnel who accounted for nearly 50 percent of Tampa Bay's 112 goals are sidelined with injuries. The 112 goals are the league low but Khabibulin and a better defense have kept the Lightning in more games this season.
Dudley will remain with the team this season as a consultant.

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