- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 5, 2002

Washington Capitals coach Ron Wilson summed up the situation in just a few words: "We got what we deserved."
The Toronto Maple Leafs, somewhat surprised by the outcome, rallied from a two-goal deficit at MCI Center last night and put a crimp in the Caps' dash to the playoffs, administering a 3-2 loss that all but wiped out all the positive vibes gained from an overtime win in Ottawa Saturday night.
Toronto scored three unanswered goals in the final 28 minutes without star goalie Curtis Joseph, who was out with a broken hand, and didn't even have their coach, Pat Quinn, who is attending the general managers' meetings in Florida.
Washington scored once in the first period, once early in the second and then accomplished little for the rest of the evening. To their credit, the Caps had a number of good attempts against backup goalie Corey Schwab but nothing else got through.
Wilson complained about the officiating and the lack of calls when Caps were being hauled down or held, prevented from following through. He complained mostly about a call that mystified most observers interference against Dmitri Khristich at 11:27 of the second.
"That was a mystery call," Wilson said. "The penalty we took, that wasn't a penalty. [It was] a momentum shifter but we didn't kill it off. Instead of it being 2-0 and us plowing forward the way we were, it's 2-1 and the momentum in the game had shifted.
"Then we didn't play a 3-on-2 properly and had a couple guys who didn't even bother to backcheck. The next thing you know it's 2-2. We can't make mental mistakes like that at this point in the season and then turn around and say that we really want to dig in and win. Some guys let their teammates down big time tonight."
The Caps lost ground in their uphill struggle for a postseason berth because another chance to earn points has slipped away. Carolina, the Southeast Division leader, is still eight points ahead of the Caps but Washington now has only one game in hand and a face-to-face meeting Friday night.
Washington was breezing along last night and the game appeared to be settled after their second-period goal. But Toronto was credited with a goal while Khristich was off when defenseman Brendan Witt accidentally cleared a rebound into his own net, giving the Leafs the momentum they needed to turn things around.
Two minutes later Leafs captain Mats Sundin put on a little ice dancing show that seemed to captivate the Caps and leave Paul Healey alone to Olie Kolzig's right. Healey slammed the pass through the goalie and the game was tied. Robert Reichel snapped the tie five minutes into the third with a 50-footer that Kolzig missed.
Sergei Gonchar put the Caps up 1-0 after Jaromir Jagr did his own twirling act, drawing two Toronto defenders and opening up an aisle for the defenseman, who ripped the pass through the slot past Schwab. Two minutes into the second, Jagr got his 23rd goal of the season by lifting a rebound over Schwab and Washington was on cruise control until the flow shifted.
Adam Oates had an assist for the eighth straight game and Gonchar extended his point streak (3-5-8) to seven games. Jagr now has points (5-4-9) in five straight.


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