Capitals, after slipping to a tie, aim for mark against Penguins


LANDOVER -- The Washington Capitals will attempt to set their all-time home unbeaten streak today against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but there will be more on the line than just 13 games without a loss at the Capital Centre.

The Capitals, 1-3-1 in their past five games, are in second place, but just four points out of fifth in an improving Patrick Division.

With Patrick Division-leading Pittsburgh here today, Calgary, second in the Smythe Division, here Tuesday and then a four-game road trip to Minnesota, St. Louis, Los Angeles and San Jose after the All-Star break, the Capitals need a return to last month's form, when they were 10-3-1.

Capitals coach Terry Murray tried to put a positive face on Friday night's 3-3 tie with the Quebec Nordiques, pointing out Washington had its chances and that the difference in the game was the 38-save performance by Quebec goalie Ron Hextall.

"The way we played for two periods, you couldn't diagram or execute better," Murray said.

But Washington blew a three-goal lead late and for the third straight game failed to take good care of the puck.

"How do you say it without being too critical?" Capitals defenseman Calle Johansson said. "We just didn't play as a team.

"When they scored to make it 3-2, we stopped playing as a team. We didn't pass the puck to each other, and our forwards never got a good break-out from our D [defense]. None of our defensemen, me included, gave our forwards a chance for a good attack in the final period. . . . And in the first two periods, when Quebec played like they didn't want to be part of it, when they were being very nice to us, we should have buried them -- and we didn't."

The Capitals, who dominated the shooting early, 15-4 in the first period and 12-8 in the second, could beat Hextall only three times: twice at even strength on goals by Michal Pivonka and Sylvain Cote and once on a power-play goal by Al Iafrate in the second for a 3-0 lead.

Pivonka got a good pass from Dale Hunter on a 2-on-1 break with 17.8 seconds left in overtime, but couldn't score.

Quebec tied the score with goals by Owen Nolan, Steve Duchesne, and Martin Rucinsky, who scored with 6:59 left in the third period.

"We just decided we had to carry the play into their end," Quebec center Mats Sudin said. "That's all we did, and it worked."

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