- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 14, 2002

There was a time in the not-so-distant past that the team representing the Twin Cities in the NHL was lovingly referred to as the NoStars, which sort of summed up the efforts produced by the Minnesota North Stars. Playing them usually meant two quick and painless points for opponents.

The NoStars label became inoperative even before the team moved to Dallas and then won a Stanley Cup three years ago. Last night the Washington Capitals were reminded just how far the Stars have come. The Caps failed to show up, and a road-weary Dallas team took advantage for an easy 6-1 victory at MCI Center.

The loss ended the Caps' three-game winning streak as they leave today for games in Chicago and St. Paul, Minn. The loss ranked right down there with the club's 11-shot performance against Philadelphia on Nov.2 and its comatose showing in a 7-2 drubbing administered by Boston on Oct.30.

Washington was outshot, outhustled, lost most 1-on-1 battles along the boards and in front of goalie Olie Kolzig, and watched Starry-eyed as the Stars passed to intended targets something the Caps have yet to master.

"It was a stinker," Kolzig said. "We didn't play the way we wanted to; we didn't play the way we played against Philly [a 4-1 victory Saturday]. They're a tired team and we let them off the hook when we didn't need to. It was an all-around bad game."

The Caps were warned that Dallas comes out fast; the Stars had a 3-0 lead in the first period against Montreal the other night. Nobody was listening. Before last night's game was 14 minutes old, it was 2-0, Stars, and the winning goal was already in the net.

"Obviously, we don't handle success very well, and on other days I don't know that we handle adversity very well," said Caps coach Bruce Cassidy. "For what happened out there tonight, I'll take the blame. As a coach, you prepare your team to play. We knew Dallas got off to fast starts, they've outscored teams 21-7 [in the first period] and we're still down 2-0 so obviously we didn't drive the message home enough, even though it was mentioned over and over."

Bill Guerin signed a deal for nearly $9million with the Stars this season after leaving Boston but had only five goals going into last night and none in his previous seven games. He has seven goals now.

Dallas goalie Marty Turco played his first game ever against Washington and came away a winner. Kolzig is winless in eight decisions (0-7-1) against the Stars, the only team he has never beaten.

Going in, Washington's Sergei Gonchar had no goals in 11 games vs. Dallas; coming out, those figures are none in 12. Going in, Peter Bondra had two goals in 21 games; coming out, those figures are two in 22.

Washington's scoring punch? It came from Kip Miller, who was recently given a piece of pine to sit on for an entire game. Miller has four goals and nine points in the eight games he has played against the Stars.

Mike Modano, the center who was one of the NoStars, had a pair of assists last night to run his career point total to 999 and never worked up a sweat.

Washington missed excellent chances throughout the game, opportunities that might easily have put the Caps back in it. But it was like watching a bunch of guys play shinny no cohesion, little teamwork, predictable results.

"That's what hurt us, and we need to finish those," Cassidy said after running through a string of "almosts." "Right now it sure is frustrating out there, and that's twice in six games we've been blown out or I don't know if you want to use the word embarrassed.

"We lost all the 1-on-1 battles, along the walls, in the scoring areas," he said. "In the first period, we made good decisions in the neutral zone, we didn't turn it over like we've been preaching. So there's a positive note."

But 16 games into the season, he was referring to a singular positive note, not positive notes. That's a star for NoStars.


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