Tabaracci gets start in goal over Beaupre Murray opts to go with 'gut feeling'


Here the Washington Capitals are at the start of postseason play, and suddenly Don Beaupre is not the No. 1 goalie.

Is this any time to shake up the status quo?

Evidently, because that's exactly what Capitals coach Terry Murray did yesterday in preparation for Game 1 of the Patrick Division semifinals against the New York Islanders tonight at the Capital Centre.

It will be newcomer Rick Tabaracci in the net tonight, while Beaupre, the man who has been Washington's No. 1 goaltender for four regular seasons and three playoff series, sits it out.

Murray would not reveal his choice as starter, but Beaupre said after a meeting with Murray that Tabaracci will start.

"Rick is starting, and I'm real disappointed," said Beaupre, 27-23-5 with a 3.33 goals-against average. "I think anyone who is left out of the lineup at this time of year is disappointed.

"But I guess I'm particularly disappointed because I don't really think this is fair. Rick has certainly played well enough in his five starts, but I look back on three or four years and in the playoffs and I don't think five games is enough to make a change like this.

"This is the start of the playoffs, and you go with your No. 1 goaltender."

Beaupre said Murray told him he had made his decision based "on a gut feeling" that Tabaracci should be the starter.

Earlier, although Murray would not identify Tabaracci as his starter, he did say that coaches like to go with a goalie with a hot hand.

"When he's in a groove, you don't want to disturb it," Murray said. "When he's ready and he's sharp, you don't even want to talk to him. You just want to let him do his thing."

Certainly that is a clue to how Murray came to this decision. Since joining Washington March 22 in a trade that sent backup goalie Jim Hrivnak to the Winnipeg Jets, Tabaracci has been at his best.

In five starts, he is 3-2 with two shutouts for a 1.75 goals-against average.

Tabaracci, 24, was all smiles yesterday afternoon when asked about his new status, but did not talk about it.

"I'm very superstitious," he said. "I'd rather not go into it right now. After the game, we can talk for an hour, but, right now, I just want to do the job and not talk. I always do everything the same way right down to what I eat before I go to the game -- bagel with cream cheese and bowl of Captain Crunch cereal."

The Capitals talked a lot yesterday about simply concentrating on the assignment at hand -- stopping the Islanders and their power line of Pierre Turgeon, Derek King and Steve Thomas.

They said they are pleased to be playing the Islanders, primarily because it means the New Jersey Devils will be playing the regular-season division champ Pittsburgh Penguins in the other Patrick Division semifinal series.

"I think Jersey might take something out of Pittsburgh," said Capitals forward Michal Pivonka. "Who knows, maybe they'll even beat them. But, right now, we've got to think only about winning this series."

To win this series, Washington must get an improved offensive production from its forwards, from men such as Pivonka, Dimitri Khristich and Peter Bondra.

"I absolutely need the forwards or an entire line to step up and play big time," said Murray. "I need Michal Pivonka to step up. This is his time of the year. The challenge is before him -- and before Bondra and Khristich, too."

Bondra, the team's leading goal scorer (37), is emerging from a slump. Khristich has gone goal-less in 12 games. And Pivonka has one goal in his last 13 games.

"There is expectation for everyone," said Pivonka. "We are here to score and create some offense. The challenge is to do something on offense and play defense, too. But others have to do their jobs, too. The goalie is supposed to stop the puck. The defense is supposed to stop the attack. If each guy does his role, we should be in good shape.

"What we have to do is follow our game plan. The only problem with that is if two guys follow it and two other guys don't."

Beaupre will be one of the guys who follows the game plan. He said that, though he is disappointed and could take this as a sign he will not be protected in the expansion draft, he will continue to prepare and be ready for when the team needs him.

"I want the team to do well, and I really feel I'll be looked at before it's over," Beaupre said. "But I want to be the guy who starts, not the mop-up guy."

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