Bowman's power play is working Hands-off tape puts Caps in rough spot


PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins coach Scotty Bowman is a very accommodating fellow, particularly when being so suits his purpose.

After his team was zapped in the first two games of its Patrick Division semifinal playoff series by the Washington Capitals, Bowman prepared a videotape of all the on-ice shenanigans that he felt had gone undetected by referees. He gave the tape to the NHL's supervisor of officials, Matt Pavelich.

Just in case that subtle hint that his team wasn't being treated fairly didn't register, Bowman told both Pittsburgh papers: "I've been checking every box score of the playoffs, and it seems the home team is getting more power plays. That's what home ice is all about."

So, by the power of suggestion, or just plain happenstance and luck, the Penguins got the type of officiating they wanted Thursday night and beat the Caps, 6-4.

And what style suits the defending Stanley Cup champions? Slow. Lots of stoppages in play, with players repeatedly being tossed out of the faceoff circle. And lots of power-play opportunities.

The more man-advantage situations there are in a game, and there were 23 the other evening, the more Bowman finds opportunities for his big gun, Mario Lemieux.

Despite playing just his third game in 23 days, Lemieux logged 35 minutes of ice time. He led the Penguins' power play, assisting on two goals and scoring another, and served on the penalty-killing squad. He finished with three goals and three assists.

But all this action doesn't turn out to be as strenuous as it sounds when the referee is blowing his whistle every 15 seconds or so to send someone off the ice.

Pittsburgh's Rick Tocchet, who sat out with a shoulder injury, said he watched the game on a television in the locker room and noted clutching and grabbing was being called on both teams from the outset.

"If the ref lets it go, we're forced to play a little differently. We've got little guys, and big guys like [Al] Iafrate, [Kevin] Hatcher and [Rod] Langway get away with more just shoving people around. Call it close and they get hurt," said Tocchet.

The Capitals are proud of their special teams, having finished second in the NHL in power-play efficiency and fourth in penalty killing. "But, basically, we want to come at teams five-on-five," said Dino Ciccarelli. "It gives us a chance to get more of our guys involved."

Thursday, Kelly Miller, who plays on Washington's penalty-killing quartet, said he couldn't remember playing on more than a couple of line shifts. "The whole game was special teams," he said.

Thus the Caps' superiority in numbers -- four forward lines and six defensemen taking regular shifts -- was wiped out by the game's slow pace and the reliance on specialized play.

"What we have to do," said Ciccarelli, "is play aggressively but not take dumb penalties. We can't get dragged into their game.

"It's a series now, but we didn't expect it to be anything but," he said. "It [the loss] was only one game. We can't get down. Personally, I don't like to look ahead. I just look at the next game. Our guys seem to be that way."

Washington goalie Don Beaupre, who allowed four goals over the first seven periods of playoff play, gave up that many in the second period Thursday night.

"Sometimes you've got that great feeling; you know you're going to do well," Beaupre said. "But I really haven't got that yet coming back from the [strike] layoff. Even after the loss, though, we're still on the verge of winning it or being in a real tough series."

Caps vs. Penguins

Washington leads series, 2-1 Game 1: Washington 3, Pittsburgh 1

Game 2: Washington 6, Pittsburgh 2

Game 3: Pittsburgh 6, Washington 4

Today: At Pittsburgh, 7:35 p.m.

Monday: At Washington, 7:35 p.m.

Wednesday: At Pittsburgh, 7:35 p.m.*

Friday: At Washington, 7:35 p.m.*

* -- if necessry

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