Capitals' slide traced to failure on special teams


The Washington Capitals have been without key personnel because of injuries for most the season. Yet, the Capitals had remained contenders in the Patrick Division race.

Over the last week, however, Washington has slumped with a five-game winless streak (0-4-1) and dropped from second place in the division to next-to-last.

One of the main reasons for its success had been Washington's proficiency on the power play and in penalty killing. A week ago, the Capitals led the National Hockey League in both categories. Suddenly, however, the Washington special teams have gone sour.

The Capitals have dropped from first to fourth in power-play scoring and from first to second in penalty killing.

Washington hasn't scored in its past 18 power-play opportunities and has two goals in its past 32. The Capitals have scored 40 power-play goals in 173 attempts for a .227 percentage. The Calgary Flames (45-for-187, .241) is the leader, with the Chicago Blackhawks second (43-for-186, .231) and the Pittsburgh Penguins third (42-for-182, .231).

The Buffalo Sabres lead in penalty killing (allowing 21 goals in 168 opportunities, .875) with Washington second (22 of 148, .851).

"Our special teams had been our bread and butter," said Washington coach Terry Murray. "Now, we're not doing the things we were doing.

"We're standing around instead of moving the puck on the power play. We're trying to get too good a shot instead of just putting the puck on the goal and creating some action in front of the goal. We're making the good passes, but we don't have anyone in front of the goal, and the opposing goalies are getting a good look at our shots from the blue line and the top of the circles. You can't go one-on-one on the power play; you're defeating the purpose of the situation. We're going to have to go back to basics."

Michal Pivonka, a mainstay on the power play with three goals, said: "We have to get guys jumping on the puck and get more shots through the defense. We're not getting the shots we need, and we're not controlling the puck."


Pittsburgh's Paul Coffey became the second defenseman in NHL history to score his 1,000th point. Dennis Potvin, who played for the New York Islanders, leads NHL defensemen in scoring with 1,052 points.

Coffey said he knew getting his 1,000th point was inevitable, but was still awed by the accomplishment. He has 296 goals and 704 assists in 770 games. Coffey's assist total is third behind Potvin (742) and the Los Angeles Kings' Larry Robinson (732) for defensemen.

"I was a little nervous, a little excited," Coffey said. "There's been many great defensemen that played the game, and to be one of two over 1,000, it's a great honor."


Los Angeles center Wayne Gretzky is two goals shy of becoming the fourth player in NHL history to score 700 goals. Gretzky, who leads the NHL in scoring with 21 goals, 44 assists, has 698 goals in 881 games. Gordie Howe is the leader with 801, followed by Marcel Dionne with 731 and Phil Esposito with 717.


Khimik of the Soviet Union completed its NHL tour with a 3-3-1 record, beating the Montreal Canadiens, Buffalo Sabresand Boston Bruins, tying the Islanders and losing to Los Angeles, the St. Louis Blues and Minnesota North Stars. Central Red Army will begin a seven-game tour tomorrow and Moscow Dynamo will begin its tour Jan. 1.

Moscow Dynamo, with Washington Capitals 1990 draft choice right wing Andrei Kovalev in its lineup, will play the Capitals at the Capital Centre Jan. 8. Washington is 2-0-1 against touring Soviet opposition.

* This season's All-Star Game,the 42nd,will be at Chicago stadium,Jan.20 at 1 p.m.

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