- The Washington Times - Monday, March 25, 2002

PITTSBURGH This was two points there for the taking against a team that was hardly recognizable because of injuries and trades, two points the Washington Capitals had to have.
And two points the Caps squandered. Instead of moving into a tie for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, Washington fell flat against a Penguins team made up mostly of players who didn't call Pittsburgh home a month ago.
The Penguins toyed with the Caps last night, rolling to a 6-2 victory made all the easier by sloppy and inattentive play. The team's three-game winning streak, obviously, became history.
Jaromir Jagr? He gained little ground in his battle to get back into the NHL scoring race. While he was one of the livelier Caps in the game, he was booed by the same fans that worshiped him just a year ago and was held off the scoreboard until he picked up a late assist.
"We didn't have the jump necessary tonight," coach Ron Wilson said. "They were a fresher team. I think that was evident. We're not a fast team to begin with, and then if you take a half a step away from us, we can be very slow. We had an opportunity early in the game on that 5-on-3, [but] we just couldn't get off the mark and it went downhill from that."
In their defense, the Caps are a tired team, six games into an eight-game road trip that started 11 days ago. But at this time of the season, when a playoff berth might hang in the balance, teams have been known to play through it.
But the excuses stopped there. Washington had opportunities to mount an attack, starting with a two-man advantage for 70 seconds before the game was three minutes old, but never got untracked. The Caps' first goal, by Ken Klee early in the middle period, was sort of an accident, a soft shot wristed toward Johan Hedberg that the goalie apparently lost in the crowd.
Hedberg? Yep, the same guy who stoned Washington in the playoffs last season. He is now 2-0-2 with a goals-against average of 2.7 against the Caps; he is 22-28-4 against everybody else.
Klee's goal actually made it 2-1, and briefly it looked as if the Caps were on another one of the comebacks they have been accustomed to lately. It was the sixth time in Washington's last eight games it has fallen behind by a pair; as recently as Saturday night it happened in Columbus, and the Caps won 5-2.
Not last night. After Klee scored, three guys named Michal Rozsival, Randy Robitaille and Dan (no goals in 33 games) LaCouture scored for Pittsburgh. Try and find their trading cards.
Jagr, frustrated at his inability to do anything against his former teammates, took an uncharacteristic penalty in the second period for elbowing.
"He was just like everybody else on the team with the battery down to zero," Wilson said. "As he is prone to do, he turns it into a 1-on-1 game when he doesn't have the energy. We didn't do a good job of getting over and supporting him."
Craig Billington replaced Olie Kolzig at the start of the third period, but Kolzig was hardly to blame. While he wasn't in peak form, he was trying to cover for defensive lapses and was the victim of a few bad bounces.


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