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Capitals shift direction, start heading south Hold on 2nd place ends with 3-2 loss


It was only a few weeks ago that the Capitals were beating everybody. Now they have to probe deep into their memories for their last win.

The Capitals absorbed their fourth defeat in five games (0-4-1) when Benoit Hogue broke a 2-2 tie with 4:14 left to lead the New York Islanders to a 3-2 victory last night before 17,468 at the Capital Centre.

The loss, coupled with the New Jersey Devils' 7-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers, knocked the Capitals out of second place in the NHL's Patrick Division. They had been in second since Dec. 27.

"The race is too tight for comfort," said Kevin Hatcher, whose third-period goal, a 55-foot wrist shot on a power play, tied the score at 2. "We've put ourselves in a position where every game is huge."

The Capitals are in an uncomfortable position because they haven't won since Feb. 23. They beat the Islanders that night for their seventh straight victory, extending a streak that started Feb. 9.

Coach Terry Murray has some theories about what ails his team.

"We came home off the road and maybe tried to do too much," Murray said. "Maybe there was too much individual stuff. Maybe we approached it that being home would be easier, and lost our sense of urgency as a result.

"We talked all season about controlling our own destiny in March. February put us in a good position, but now all we have is a hole we've got to climb out of."

Capitals goalie Don Beaupre sat in front of his locker talking about the team's slump and Hogue's game-winning goal that slipped by him.

"The guy hits a perfect shot right inside the post," Beaupre said. "That's what happens when you're not going good. A shot like that, a goalie has a better chance of not stopping it than stopping it."

The Islanders' Pierre Turgeon got an assist on the game's first goal, by Derek King, extending his consecutive games scoring streak to 10. It is the longest current streak in the


For Turgeon, who entered the game tied for third in the NHL in scoring with 103 points, it was his 12th assist and 21st point during the streak.

The Islanders increased their lead to 2-0 in the second period on Marty McInnis' goal. McInnis skated in all alone and beat Beaupre.

It wasn't until 8:25 into the second period that the Capitals scored. Michal Pivonka's goal, his 18th, ended a Capitals drought of 107 minutes and four seconds.

Their previous goal was in the third period of last Tuesday's tie against Vancouver. That, too, was scored by Pivonka. On Friday night, Washington was shut out at home (by Philadelphia) for the first time since 1988.

NOTES: The Capitals were 0-for-25 in converting power-play opportunities until Hatcher's goal. . . . Mike Ridley is 11 shy of becoming the second player to score 200 goals for the Capitals. Mike Gartner (397), Bengt Gustafsson (196) and Dave Christian (193) lead Ridley. . . . Kelly Miller last night became the eighth man to play in 500 Capitals games. Others who could reach 500 this season -- Ridley (488), Pivonka (482) and Bob Carpenter (481). . . . Result of a promotional stunt: Capitals assistant coach John Perpich drove his sulky to victory in the Rosecroft Challenge Saturday night at Rosecroft Raceway, beating Bullets color analyst Phil Chenier. Capitals coach Terry Murray was third, followed by Bullets general manager John Nash. . . . The Capitals' 1991 first-round draft pick, Pat Peake, dominated the Ontario Hockey League's coaches poll. He was named as the league's smartest player, best playmaker, best shot and most dangerous player in the goal area. Peake has led the Detroit Junior Wings to first place in the OHL's Emms Division.

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