- The Washington Times - Friday, November 22, 2002

In Section 412 of MCI Center last night, a Washington Capitals fan wearing a Dale Hunter jersey watched the sad proceedings with a bag over his head. He may prove a trendsetter come tomorrow night against Atlanta.
There are 62 games left in the season, but last night was pretty much a must-win for the Caps, and they didn't win. They came close they usually do but close doesn't count.
Minnesota, in its third NHL season, beat the Caps for the second time this season 4-3. Washington desperately made a game of it in the third period, but hockey has three periods and the Caps didn't play all three.
The Caps are now winless in their last five (0-4-1) and 0-2 on their current home stand. They ended the first quarter of the season two games under .500 (8-10-2), and this team with all its firepower has been outscored 54-43.
It was another case where cohesive play was not there, at least not long enough for the Caps to make much use of it. It was another case of one team that came ready to play from the start and the other, the Caps, did not. It was another case of too little, too late.
Washington trailed 3-2 entering the third period before Pascal Dupuis of Minnesota and the Caps' Mike Grier traded goals. It was the fifth one-goal loss of the season for Washington.
"It just seems we cannot get over the hump," coach Bruce Cassidy said. "I told the team I thought we got going in the third period, we had some life on the bench, and guys were saying we've got to play together, defense and forwards. And if we played together from the point the puck was dropped, we wouldn't always be playing from behind. You ask any team, ask any coach and he'll tell you that very seldom do you have success playing from behind."
Left wing Peter Bondra left the game in the first period with what was described as back spasms and did not return. He will be re-evaluated today.
The Caps allowed the first goal for the 13th time in 20 games, although there was no long-lasting suspense this time waiting for it to happen. Left wing Antti Laaksonen took a drop pass from Wes Walz and unloaded a slap shot from the inside edge of the left circle 53 seconds into the game. A screen prevented Olie Kolzig from having any chance at stopping it.
Stephane Veilleux, who has scored both his goals this season against Washington, made it 2-0 after 6:30 of the second. He turned defenseman Brendan Witt inside out, was 1-on-1 against Kolzig, deked right and went left.
Washington started to come back less than two minutes later. Michael Nylander fed Sergei Gonchar as the defender slid down the slot, and he hammered a drive through a screen and goalie Dwayne Roloson. It was the first goal he had surrendered to Washington in more than 88 minutes this season.
Defenseman Ken Klee evened the score 2-2 at 14:46 of the second with one of the prettiest goals of his career. He was crossing in front of Roloson and took a pass from Gonchar. The goalie moved to block Klee, the defenseman carried the puck a few feet further and easily tapped it in on his backhand.
But the tie lasted less than two minutes. Former Caps wing Andrew Brunette took a shot from a bad angle on a power play and Kolzig was going to let it slide through the crease. Instead, the puck glanced off the back of his right skate and into the net.
Notes Rookie defenseman Steve Eminger was a healthy scratch last night for the seventh time in 20 games. Also scratched was left wing Andreas Salomonsson. The Caps return to Piney Orchard for practice today for the first time in a week. Mike Grier and Steve Konowalchuk were both acknowledged by the fans for their penalty-killing efforts when Minnesota was swarming.



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