- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 22, 2002

The Washington Capitals reportedly had a list of names ready to announce today that would comprise their last major cut of training camp.
But that was before the Caps played Pittsburgh in a preseason game last night. Now all bets are off.
The Penguins scored early, often and with remarkable ease in waltzing to a 6-3 victory at MCI Center, the Caps providing virtually no resistance for two periods. It may have been the sorriest performance by the Caps at home since MCI opened five years ago.
Fans hooted and jeered, mocking the effort that at times was pitiful. Washington was down 6-0 before Peter Bondra, Mike Farrell and Chris Simon scored in the third period. Washington has not beaten Pittsburgh since March 2001.
Washington is now 0-3 in exhibitions, having been outscored 16-8. Eight of the opposition goals were on the power play, including four last night.
Whether the list of cuts will be rewritten is not known, but it at least merits reconsideration based on last night. From the time Washington went down 2-0, just 11 minutes in, what little spirit and enthusiasm present at the start disappeared.
Craig Billington, who will be blamed for six scores, stopped two breakaways one shorthanded in the first nine minutes. He was not razor sharp but he wasn't six goals bad, either. The captain of the Titanic got more help.
"What I think we need to do is probably play our regular lineup even more," said coach Bruce Cassidy, "because we're not there yet. At least that's what they've shown me. Maybe they'll go out to Dallas and Carolina and show us a little more and say, 'Hey, Coach, relax, we're OK.' Right now I'm new to all this, I come in here and we lose three [exhibition] games and we haven't done a lot of things well. We have to address that and get to our team in a hurry."
Billington was facing shots at the rate of one a minute when the second Pittsburgh goal got through, Shane Endicott used a Caps defender as a screen. From that point on until the third period, Washington played with no emotion, and the result was predictable.
"Biller made a couple saves early on, I thought we'd be OK," Cassidy said. "[But] it went from bad to worse. It seemed everything we put at the net went in, and when we did nothing happened. We weren't ready to play."
Cassidy termed it possibly a blessing in disguise, having everything bad that could happen turn up at the very start, showing exactly what needs to be addressed. He noted that based on the 0-3 performance, the players would have no excuse if the coaches started forcing the team to knuckle under.
The team leaves today for Dallas with a golf outing scheduled tomorrow and a ranch outing Tuesday. If ice is available, those plans might change.
Nothing new on the Dainius Zubrus-Andrei Nikolishin negotiations, but that could change in a hurry.
Much to the dismay of the fans seated directly behind it, the protective netting was in place at both ends of MCI. The nets, installed after a young fan was killed after being struck by a puck last season in Columbus, Ohio, were installed by league order. They extend 14 feet from the top of the protective glass and extend in a semicircle from the middle of the faceoff circles. The openings in the diamond-shaped mesh are 27/8 inches; a puck is three inches in diameter. A Caps official would not say how much was paid for the one installed here but said the cost has run from $35,000 to $75,000, depending on the rink. The official said the netting was tested and certified by an engineering firm, but its effectiveness is in question. Many pucks last night still ended up in the stands.
Preseason rankings: The Caps are rated 20th in one survey, with Western Conference teams dominating. Neil Smith, fired by the New York Rangers for spending too much money, has gone to the other extreme, working for a team with almost none at all. He has been named a consultant to Pittsburgh general manager Craig Patrick. Smith will continue to do color commentary for ESPN.

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