Caps rally to tie Kings, gain on Devils in playoff race


LANDOVER -- Dimitri Khristich's third-period goal earned the Washington Capitals a 3-3 tie with the Los Angeles Kings last night in a National Hockey League game before 17,583 at the Capital Centre.

The Capitals, trailing the Kings, 3-1, midway through the second period, rallied for a pair of goals to pull out the one point in the

standings. Washington is three points behind the New Jersey Devils, who lost to the New York Islanders, 4-3, in the battle for the final Stanley Cup playoff berth from the Patrick Division.

Khristich, in his first game after missing three weeks with a hip pointer, tied the game at 3 with 7 minutes, 5 seconds remaining in the third period.

Khristich, storming down the left side of the rink, accepted a perfect cross-slot pass from Mike Ridley and lifted the puck over goalie Daniel Berthiaume's right shoulder from the bottom of the circle to force the five-minute overtime period.

Seconds later, the Capitals' Mike Liut, who played superbly in the nets, made Wayne Gretzky, who was on a breakaway, hit the goal post to preserve the tie. Liut made 22 saves and shut out the Kings the final 37:19 of the game.

Gretzky, who had three assists in the game, including his 99th of the season and 1,400th of his career, was stopped on another breakaway early in overtime with a pad save by Liut. Liut also snuffed Luc Robitaille from close range later in the overtime.

"We were a little disappointed about not winning," said Gretzky. "Because of the close races, every point counts. But we didn't lose and we played well on the road. We missed some very good chances, but Liut made some very big saves. Both teams played with a lot of intensity."

The Capitals' Steve Leach, who assisted on the second goal, said: "It was a great tie. Los Angeles has a good team, an explosive team, and to hold them to three goals and come back like we did has got to help us down the stretch. We didn't play our style in the first period and were down, 2-0. We have to bump and grind to be successful, and we finally realized it."

Washington defenseman Calle Johansson, who had two assists, said: "We turned the game around in the dressing room before the second period. We said that we had to start playing better. We played very poorly in the first period. We bore down in the second and third periods and got the tie. Every point is very important right now."

Ridley and Michal Pivonka also scored for Washington, and Rod Buskas, Tony Granato and Tomas Sandstrom scored for the Kings.

"We played well in the first period, but we let down in the second period," said Kings coach Tom Webster. "We were lucky to stay in the game after that. We got Washington down, but then they got more physical, did more banging and they came back."

Capitals coach Terry Murray said: "Every point is very big now and I'll take the tie. The turning point for us was the final shift of the first period by [Jeff] Greenlaw, [Tim] Bergland and [Alan] May. They did some hitting and got us fired up. We were basically watching the Kings play and admiring Gretzky before that. We were giving them too much space to operate in.

"Liut played great. He is very professional and gets the job done for us."

Gretzky assisted on both first-period goals as the Kings opened a 2-0 lead.

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