Capitals slip past Oilers, 4-3 Pivonka leads way with goal, 2 assists


LANDOVER -- Washington Capitals center Michal Pivonka was on his game last night, which was fortunate for the Capitals, who did not want a repeat of the Philadelphia folly that occurred two days earlier.

What Washington needed was a strong comeback after the six-goal loss to the Flyers. And they got it. Pivonka was involved in the Capitals first three goals.

"This was a big improvement from Wednesday night," said Capitals coach Terry Murray, who could find little fault with a 4-3 victory over Edmonton.

"It was a vast improvement," he said. "I couldn't find any positives to bring away from Philadelphia. But the decisions we made here were the ones we need to make. We played smart, and we didn't gamble. It's a great game to play before going on the road."

The victory extended Washington's home unbeaten streak to 10 games, two shy of the club record set in 1982. It also gave the Patrick Division's second-place Capitals a solid send-off for a 12-day trip in which they will play four road games before returning here Jan. 23 against the Ottawa Senators.

The defense limited Edmonton to few good scoring opportunities, and Pivonka, after assisting on Washington's first two goals, scored in the second period to break a 2-2 tie and brought the 15,691 fans to their feet at the Capital Centre.

"Pivonka played great," Murray said. "This is his best game this year and he was really involved on the bench, saying good things, showing some real leadership, and he played so smart. On his goal, most guys coming in like that would have skated right by the net, but he just stopped at the top of the crease and looked for the rebound."

It wasn't until the 7:49 mark in the final period Washington that breathed easier, when Al Iafrate and Dimitri Khristich started a 2-on-1 break and scored. The two passed back and forth from the blue line, with Iafrate making the final pass to Khristich, who scored for a 4-2 lead.

That advantage proved enough to hold off the Oilers, who managed justone more goal with 2:18 to go, when Shayne Corson was able to get around defenseman Rod Langway to score on goalie Jim Hrivnak.

"It was frustrating being on the ice for two goals," said Langway, who made his first appearance in 30 games.

Pivonka set up Dale Hunter's goal for a 1-0 lead with 2:55 gone in the first period and then assisted on Kevin Hatcher's goal a little more than two minutes later.

"I was just kind of trailing along after the play, when Michal made a great pass," Hatcher said. "We concentrated tonight on playing more responsibly and did a pretty good job."

Pivonka scored his goal with 11:33 gone in the second period, when he pick up a rebound off a shot by Peter Bondra.

Play was delayed 10 minutes in the first period when Edmonton center Shaun Van Allen slipped while chasing Hatcher behind the Capitals' goal and hit his head against the boards. He was taken to Georgetown Hospital, where he was being kept for


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