Fatigued Caps Let Devils Mount Rally
Fay, Dave, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Washington Capitals' dream of running through a five-game road swing with a clean slate came to a crunching halt last night, the result of playing three games in four nights and a loss of composure probably due to fatigue.
The Caps led twice by two goals but eventually lost 5-4 to the New Jersey Devils, who took advantage of Washington errors and rained a season-high 43 shots on the Caps' net manned by Craig Billington, who played well but still saw his three-game winning streak end.
Washington was holding a 4-3 lead early in the third period and had an opportunity to clear the puck but failed to do so. Instead, Richard Zednik turned it over, and John Madden fired through a screen for his second goal of the night.
A minute later, the Caps still appeared disorganized and confused from the Madden score when Patrik Elias connected on an easy tap-in, and for the first time the Devils were in front. It was the 37th shot Billington faced and he would see six more. New Jersey goalie Chris Terreri saw only 21.
"They had more gas in the tank than we did," Caps coach Ron Wilson said. The Caps had played the previous night in Madison Square Garden and two days before that in Atlanta.
"The schedule had as much an effect on us as anything else," Wilson said. "They were a fresh team and wore us down at the end."
The game was definitely not a run-of-the-mill contest. It had similarities to the game the previous night, where the New York Rangers outshot the Caps 16-6 during the third period but lost in overtime.
The Devils outshot Washington 16-4 in the first period last night but trailed after one 1-0 when Chris Simon first forced a turnover behind the New Jersey net and then whipped a shot over Terreri's shoulder.
Washington lost its composure during the second period and nearly fell behind. Brendan Witt took a double minor for high sticking, and Elias scored on the first penalty. Then the Caps took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when Wilson started yelling at referee Don Van Massenhoven. That gave the Devils a two-man advantage that they turned into a goal by Claude Lemieux to tie the score at 3-3.
"I yelled at the referee because we would have been able to clear the puck on the penalty kill [except that defenseman] Calle Johansson's stick was held," Wilson said. "I said, `You got to call the holding the stick - there two teams.' I got an extra penalty for just saying that."
Earlier, Caps defenseman Sergei Gonchar had banked a shot in off Terreri's right pad for a 2-0 lead, Jeff Halpern scored off Steve Konowalchuk's feed for a 3-1 lead, and Gonchar's second of the night made it 4-3 as the second period was winding down. …