EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Washington Capitals are beginning the 1992-93 season by losing games and ground.
After opening the season with a victory at Toronto, the Capitals suffered their third loss in a row -- all against Patrick Division teams -- with a 4-2 loss last night to the New Jersey Devils.
It was an ugly game for the 1-3 Capitals. Just consider:
* Starting goalkeeper Don Beaupre was benched after the first period, with the Devils leading, 3-0.
* Left wing Bobby Carpenter received a game misconduct after 8:27 of the first, and Caps defender Jason Woolley suffered a broken wrist less than two minutes into the second.
* At one point in the second period the Caps were being outshot, 21-7.
* And, it took the Caps five power-play opportunities to score their first goal with 3:09 left in the second period.
"All over the floor we can bring up our game a notch," Beaupre said. "We're not at the level of play we should be. We're 0-3 in the division and that's not good. We did well last year because we did well in our division."
For the Devils, the victory gave them a 3-1 record and first place in the Patrick Division.
The Caps can't seem to catch a break. Already playing without four top goal scorers from a year ago, they could hardly afford to lose another scorer -- for even one night. They also couldn't afford to lose a defender.
But before two minutes had elapsed in the second period, that's exactly what happened with the losses of Woolley and Carpenter.
Woolley was caught in a sandwich, when New Jersey's right wing John MacLean smashed him into Caps left wing Kelly Miller. Woolley dropped to the ice and stayed there for several minutes before being helped off.
Carpenter was lost for the night when he slammed into New Jersey's Jarrod Skalde from behind, crushing him against the boards and drawing blood from around Skalde's right eye.
Carpenter was given a five-minute major penalty for checking from behind and a game misconduct with 11:33 still to play in the first period.
"I don't even think it was a hit from behind," said Caps coach Terry Murray. "I think he hit him from the side. But the guy was injured and that was the important thing that decided the call."
Murray said if there was a positive last night it was that "we worked harder in the second and third periods even though it didn't show [on the scoreboard] because our shots were cut off before they reached the net. But the determination was there and if there was a bright spot that was it."
But perhaps more frustrating than Carpenter's penalty was what happened next.
Already behind, 2-0, on goals by Claude Lemieux and Kevin Todd, the Caps successfully killed off the five-minute, short-handed situation, only to allow Todd to score again two seconds after the penalty had ended.
The Caps, playing in one-minute shifts, had held New Jersey to just three shots during the short-handed situation. But with 6:31 left in the first period, Woolley was brought to his knees by Devils left wing Tom Chorske, who was able to pass the puck around him to a free-skating Todd. Todd simply drove the puck past Beaupre for New Jersey's 3-0 lead.
When the teams returned for the second period, Beaupre, who had allowed three goals on 12 shots, was replaced by Jim Hrivnak.
"I thought it was a pretty ugly game, even to the very end," said Beaupre. "I can't worry about the goals we're not getting. All I can worry about is digging the puck out of our own net."
The game was 36:51 old before Washington was able to crack the New Jersey defense. That's when Pat Elynuik scored his first goal on an assist from Al Iafrate. The score narrowed the Devils' lead but 1:52 later, Devil Valeri Zelepukin nudged the margin back to three, to give New Jersey a 4-1 lead at the end of the second period.