The Washington Capitals just can't score in the Patrick Division. So far, they can't win, either.
The New York Islanders defeated the Caps, 5-2, last night before 16,123 at the Capital Centre.
They're 0-5 in the Patrick Division and 3-5 overall. Now they begin a four-game road trip.
"We're in a hole now," Caps coach Terry Murray said. "This is not a good situation. It doesn't matter where we're going. . . . It's a little scary going on the road for four games."
When they play outside their division, the Caps average 5.67 goals a game. But against Patrick Division teams, their goal production becomes anemic -- 1.75 goals per game.
Last night, the trend continued, save for Peter Bondra, who scored his sixth and seventh goals of the season.
"We're very frustrated," Caps left wing Kelly Miller said. "At times we're trying too hard. We're getting good chances, but I think we're trying to make the pretty play and coming away with nothing."
It was a sight that baffled Murray, as he watched his team take the initiative on two-on-one breaks and never get a shot off.
"We've got to go with the initial rush," Murray said. "If we don't take our first chance, we aren't going to get a second one, because the teams we're playing are playing very good defense against us. They get four guys back, and then we end up tossing the puck in the slot and losing it.
"But the chances we have -- and we refuse to shoot. . . . It's unbelievable to me," Murray said. "It's amazing."
Murray described last night's loss as the most frustrating of the season.
"We gave up bad goals. We made turnovers. We were beaten off the boards. It should never happen," he said.
Bondra scored midway through the first period to tie the score at BTC 1, but the Islanders came back to take a 2-1 lead before the end of the period and held that lead into the third period.
The Islanders' Pierre Turgeon scored at 5:06 of the third period for a 3-1 lead. Bondra cut the lead to 3-2 when he shot a rebound past Islanders goalie Glenn Healy with 9:19 to play.
But the Islanders scored again about a minute later to regain a two-goal lead. With 8:13 left, Steve Thomas skated past the Caps' Mike Ridley and then beat goalie Don Beaupre.
It was a tough goal to give up. The Caps' defense this season had been comparable to a year ago, allowing 3:46 goals per game in division play compared with 3.25 goals against this season.
"We're not putting the puck in the net, and we're not making good decisions," defenseman Kevin Hatcher said. "I don't know why it's happening. I don't know why we're not playing strong off the boards. When we're out there two-on-one, we've got to shoot the puck. We're not going to score if we're not going to take our chances."
But last night, the defense was battered, along with Beaupre, who
has been tested nightly.
After defender Sylvain Cote saved a shot with his glove with 4:29 to play, Ray Ferraro scored his second goal of the game. Ferraro punched the puck under Beaupre's stretched leg for the Islanders' 5-2 advantage.
Last season, the Caps scored often, as the team averaged 4.49 a game against Patrick Division foes. Last night was an example of how times have changed.
The Caps' .500 record at home was in danger from the beginning last night, as the Islanders showed they were ready to put pressure on Beaupre.
When Paul MacDermid was called for hooking, the Islanders appeared to be ready for the Caps' penalty-killing unit, which was ranked No. 1 in the league going into last night's game.
Islander Vladimir Malakhov skated in on Beaupre's left, and as the Caps goalie positioned himself to make a save, Malakhov passed to left wing Derek King, who flipped it into the net for a power-play goal and his sixth goal with 9:14 gone in the period.
The Caps avoided giving up another goal moments later, when defender Rod Langway poked away a puck headed for the net.
A faceoff controlled by Bobby Carpenter 41 seconds after the Islanders scored resulted in a Caps goal. Carpenter passed to Cote, who took a slap shot at New York goalie Healy. The puck bounced free and was picked up by Bondra, who skated around Healy and flipped the puck into the net for a 1-1 tie.
The Islanders regained the lead with five minutes left in the period when center Ferraro out-skated Cote in the Caps' end and scored on Beaupre.
For much of the first period, the Islanders checked the Caps well near mid-ice. But neither team seemed able to sustain offensive pressure, as each had just nine shots.
In the second period, the Caps and Islanders managed only five shots each.
New York seemed content to sit on its 2-1 lead, and Washington had problems getting good shots. The Caps also had their hands full killing an extended penalty 14:04 into the period. That's when right wing Alan May was called for a double-minor roughing penalty on Islanders' Claude Loiselle.
The Caps killed the four-minute power play, but not before Beaupre was forced to make two saves on shots by Malakhov and Scott Lachance.
NOTES: Before last night's game Alan May was presented the "Good Guy Award" for community service from the Washington Chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association. . . . Pat Elynuik had scored in five straight games before last night. . . . The Caps have the No. 1 penalty-killing unit in the NHL, allowing three goals on 42 power plays for a 92.9% success rate. . . . The Caps begin a four-game road trip Monday and will not play at home again until Nov. 6 against Tampa Bay.
Islanders 2 0 3 -- 5
Washington ..1 0 1 -- 2