NEW YORK -- The Washington Capitals improved their playoff position last night by tying the New York Rangers, 4-4, in a game that both teams could have won in the final seven seconds.
With the Rangers on a power play and the faceoff deep in Washington ice, New York pulled goalie John Vanbiesbrouck for an extra attacker.
The move resulted in a shot toward the net, but it could also have led to a rink-length goal for Washington. Such a development -- in such a tight Patrick Division race -- would not have pleased the clubs the Caps are pursuing.
It certainly surprised Caps coach Terry Murray.
"We certainly would have taken that, if we won the faceoff and just rifled it down and take a chance on it," he said. "It would have been another great point for us.
"I was very surprised by it. Points are so valuable."
Washington defenseman Rod Langway saw nothing wrong with it.
"It was a great move," he said. "They have nothing to lose. They look like they're going to be coasting into the playoffs. I thought it showed a lot of confidence in the players."
Rangers coach Roger Neilson defended the strategy, saying it involved little risk.
"The faceoff was deep or we probably wouldn't have done it," he said "The extra man gave us a chance. We wanted to get it to [Brian] Leetch. Unless they shot it right from the faceoff, they weren't going to score. It wasn't much of a gamble."
Despite playing much better than they did Monday in New
Jersey, the Capitals blew three separate leads. The lost leads -- and point -- hurt more because the Devils lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs, 7-3.
With 15 games left, the Caps trail fourth-place New Jersey by four points.
"It's a big point for us," Murray said. "It's a game where we might possibly have had two, and we could have just as easily left the building with no points at all."
The game produced 83 shots, and eight of them went in. Tim Bergland, Kevin Hatcher, Mike Ridley and Dale Hunter scored for the Caps. Leetch, Normand Rochefort, John Ogrodnick and Kris King answered for the Rangers. King's goal came at 8:39 of the final period and tied the score. Ex-Capital Mike Gartner had three assists.