- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 27, 2002

TORONTO Defenseman Robert Svehla scored on a long, unscreened shot five minutes into the third period last night, powering Toronto to a 5-4 victory over a Washington team that once again wasted a third of the game before coming to life.

The Capitals tried to give away the game at several points, driving coach Bruce Cassidy to charge his team with rank inconsistencies.

"It's just frustrating when a game which we probably shouldn't have been in early on, we had a chance to win against a team which played the night before," Cassidy said. "But that's the story of the Caps this year inconsistency from period to period, shift to shift, night to night."

Five of the nine goals came off power plays, but it was Washington's inability to covert with a five-minute man-advantage that eventually turned the tide in the Maple Leafs' favor.

Jaromir Jagr played the game with a painful groin injury that forced him from the ice about two minutes into the morning skate yesterday. He also left Monday's practice very early to get treatment for the same injury. The decision on whether he would play wasn't made until just before the game. He did not score but attempted to be a force nonetheless.

Washington passed on a very good opportunity to take the lead late in the game and perhaps put it away. Toronto defenseman Wade Belak drew a five-minute major and game misconduct with 70 seconds left in the second for elbowing Brendan Witt, but the Caps failed to convert. The score was tied at the time and Washington had momentum, having just come back from a two-goal deficit.

Like most Leafs-Caps games lately, it was an odd contest from the start. Washington again played a poor first period, getting outshot 18-4 until suddenly catching fire with 90 seconds to go.

Nik Antropov put Toronto up 1-0 at 13:45 when he snapped in his own rebound. The way the Caps had been playing, that goal might have been more than enough to win.

But at 18:30, Washington's Steve Eminger passed into the slot from the right point. The puck glanced off Dainius Zubris' foot and zipped past Ed Belfour to tie the game. Silly season had started.

With just two seconds left in the first period, Calle Johansson lofted a shot in from the left side on a power play, into the short side and Belfour, the reigning NHL player of the week after a pair of shutouts, was beaten again. That gave Washington a 2-1 lead in a period where the Caps were totally dominated.

It got stranger in the second. In the first nine minutes, on goals by Tomas Kaberle, Robert Reichel and Mikael Renberg, Toronto wiped out its disadvantage and went up by two.

Johansson's power play goal was the 51st of his Caps career, snapping a tie between himself and retired defenseman Kevin Hatcher for most power play goals by a defenseman. The goal was the 111th of his Washington stay.

Notes Defenseman J.F. Fortin was a healthy scratch last night so Eminger could play in his hometown in front of the dozen or so friends and relatives for whom he was able to get tickets. Center Glen Metropolit, another Toronto native, also was a healthy scratch, while Peter Bondra was unable to play because of back spasms. Calgary will be the visitor for the Caps' annual Thanksgiving Eve game tonight.


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