Islanders ice series in Game 6 with 5-3 victory over Capitals


*TC UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The Washington Capitals added another unwanted chapter to their anthology of playoff disasters last night, getting eliminated in the first round with a 5-3 loss to the New York Islanders in Game 6 of the Patrick Division semifinals.

The Capitals, who lost the series 4-2, fell short in a familiar story line. It wasn't that they didn't try. It was more that what they tried didn't work. The young, inspired Islanders had answers for everything.

The Islanders advanced past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 1987. The Capitals have made it out of their division only once in their 18-year history.

"During the first two periods we were lacking intensity and offense," said Capitals president Dick Patrick. "It's a shortcoming. We need people a little more explosive. But you can't evaluate everything in one game.

"I have no problem with Terry Murray. We're not going to make decisions a half-hour after the game."

Murray, who said at the beginning of this series that if his team played up to its ability it should beat the Islanders, did not go to the post-game news conference and would not come out of the coaches' office to answer questions following the loss.

Washington never got its offense on track in this series. Its top scoring line with Peter Bondra and Michal Pivonka never got going. Its second-leading point man, Mike Ridley, managed just one goal.

Only center Dale Hunter contributed consistently, with seven goals, including Washington's first last night. It was the Capitals' only goal until Todd Krygier and Al Iafrate scored in the closing minutes.

"They didn't do anything fancy," said Capitals goalie Don Beaupre. "There was nothing magic out there. They dumped it in and chased it and we couldn't get anything going.

The Capitals also never solved the Islanders' swarming attack.

Unlike Washington had done after taking leads in previous games of the series, when the Islanders found themselves up 3-1 going into the third period last night, they kept attacking.

With 10:02 to play, Travis Green picked up a loose puck along the boards in the Islanders' end and skated unattended into Washington's defensive third. It was a very familiar sight.

Before Iafrate could get close to him, Green unloaded a shot through Beaupre's legs for a 4-1 lead.

With 8:31 to go, Pierre Turgeon made it 5-1, and Hunter responded by smashing his fist into Turgeon's face along the boards.

The ensuing fight made little difference.

It is now the Islanders who shoulder the task of facing the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the Patrick Division finals.

Washington, for the second time in two years, goes home a loser in the first round. Last season, the Caps led the Penguins, three games to one, only to blow the series. This time it was a loss to the third-place Islanders.

"It hurts anytime you lose a playoff series," Hunter said. "But you lose three games in overtime, you're not going to win a series."

The Capitals had struggled against Patrick Division teams all season, going 13-22-2.

In fact, one of the few teams they had success against (they won the season series, 3-2) were the Islanders. But in the playoffs, they lost in overtime games three times and blew 3-1 leads in Games 3 and 4.

By the time the second period ended, Washington had been totally controlled and outworked, and New York led, 3-1.

Beaupre made 23 saves through the first two periods and only one of the goals he allowed was cheap.

The ugly one came with 2:41 gone in the second period: Benoit Hogue scored a short-handed goal while following up his own shot with Capitals defenseman Calle Johansson draped all over him.

Beaupre said he thought Johansson had Hogue wrapped up.

"They were moving laterally," said Beaupre. "Calle had him and I was just starting to get up, when he got his stick on the puck.

"I don't know that that was the turning point. It was early. But we never got anything. Two shots in the second period isn't going to get you out of here with a win."

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