Caps Tie Sabres, Await Penguins
Fay, Dave, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Having members of the Buffalo Sabres dancing little victory jigs around your ice rink, congratulating themselves before the game was even over, was not part of the program as the Washington Capitals envisioned it yesterday.
Nonetheless, the Caps and Sabres ended their regular seasons with a less-than-dramatic 1-1 overtime deadlock, giving the Sabres the point they needed to clinch postseason and pushing Washington to a 102-point finish, a huge 34-point improvement over last season's dismal performance which did not include the playoffs.
It was a terribly anticlimatic finish after the Caps had won the Southeast Division Saturday and clinched second place in the Eastern Conference. Philadelphia clubbed the New York Rangers yesterday, denying the Caps the top seed in the East, and will host the Sabres in the first round. The Caps will entertain Pittsburgh, a frequent visitor to the nation's capital during playoff time.
A lack of available dates in Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh has caused some shuffling of the schedule. Instead of starting Wednesday, as desired, the Washington-Pittsburgh series will now open Thursday in Washington, switch to Pittsburgh for games 2 and 3, return to Washington for 4 and 5 and then alternate.
Buffalo's Stu Barnes and Washington's Richard Zednik provided the goal scoring yesterday while the Sabres' Dominik Hasek and the Caps' Olie Kolzig stopped the remainder of what passed for offense, some players saying the two teams deserved the end result because neither played well enough to win.
Not that the Caps weren't urged to go for the victory. Coach Ron Wilson continually prodded his team to drive for the win in regulation in the hopes that Buffalo would be eliminated, which it would have been if Carolina could defeat Atlanta in a later game, which it did. If the Sabres were gone, there were no more worries by the Caps and 14 other teams about facing Hasek, known as the Dominator, in a later round.
And Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff prodded his troops to go for the victory even after postseason had been achieved because "it looks better that way."
"We went with our power play group at the end because we wanted to win before it got to overtime," Wilson said, apparently forgetting his power play groups are zero for their last dozen tries and have scored just twice in their last 31 chances.
"We would have loved to have played the role of spoiler, that's what we came into the game for," Wilson said. "Buffalo held on and my hat's off to them. We tried to get the extra point in overtime and they did, too. …