Tabaracci comes to Caps' defense


PHILADELPHIA -- After playing like an offensive wonder against Ottawa, then wondering how to play in their next game against Hartford, the Washington Capitals came up with a defensive beauty last night to defeat the Flyers, 4-1, at The Spectrum.

With Washington goalie Rick Tabaracci using everything from histick to his face to make 28 saves, the Caps came within 12.3 seconds of their first shutout of the season.

"We just dominated five on five," said Tabaracci, who was pullein the middle of each of his previous two starts. "It was a good, solid effort.

"I was just hoping . . . ."

The shutout appeared in hand, but in the final seconds, thFlyers, the NHL's second-highest-scoring team, mounted a last flurry, and Josef Beranek scored on a rebound for Philadelphia's lone goal.

"The last goal, heck, there were other times when I was dowand sprawling that they could have put one over me," Tabaracci said.

The goal did not detract from a powerful defensive display and a marvelous effort by Tabaracci.

Washington coach Terry Murray credited team captain Kevin Hatcher with his best game of the season "and perhaps all the way back through last season."

Hatcher, meanwhile, was crediting the forwards for holding ofthe Flyers' attack, "giving our defense time" to set up. "We were very solid," he said. "We didn't get in trouble down low. We played responsibly. When we don't play like a team, we're not a good team. We were a good team tonight."

The only sour note came on Al Iafrate's first shift, when hcollided with Mark Recchi and sprained his right knee. Iafrate played later in the period and had several shifts in the second, but did not play in the third. He said his injury is a "day-to-day thing."

The victory was only the third (against eight losses) in thAtlantic Division this season for the Capitals, who play the New York Rangers, another division foe and the NHL's hottest team, at USAir Arena tomorrow.

Caps rookie Kevin Kaminski got his fourth NHL assist when hset up Dimitri Khristich for a wrist shot that cleared Philadelphia goalie Tommy Soderstrom's right shoulder for Khristich's 16th goal and gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead with 2:05 left.

It was the beginning of the end of Soderstrom's dominance othe Capitals. The Flyers' goalie won all four games he started against Washington last season. This season, Washington has played two of its finest games against Philadelphia and leads the series, 2-1.

"It takes character and determination . . . and obviously w[were] a little short in that tonight," Flyers coach Terry Simpson said.

Even Eric Lindros didn't make an impact. "Everyone istruggling," Simpson said. "[Lindros] was outstanding in his first two games back. But I've said before we better not wait until Eric gets back."

Washington's Murray, meanwhile, counted last night's game aone in which everyone on his team played. "I liked what we did in all areas," he said. "We played well away from the puck, we played with intensity, and when you play like that, good things happen."

Rookie John Slaney showed some of the flash that had produce14 goals with the Portland Pirates in the American Hockey League before being called up. At 11:34 of the second period, he scored his first NHL goal, which wound up being the winner.

NOTES: The Capitals have extended C Dale Hunter's contrac through the 1995-96 season. His contract was to expire after the 1994-95 season. Beginning next year, Hunter will earn about $850,000, which will be a $250,000 raise from this season. Hunter, 33, has played in two games this season, missing the first 21 games because of a suspension for a hit on the New York Islanders' Pierre Turgeon in last season's playoffs, then missing the past 10 games because of a hit by the New York Rangers' Alexei Kovalev that partially tore Hunter's medial collateral ligament.

Washington ..... 1 .. 2 .. 1 .. -- .. 4

8, Philadelphia ... 0 .. 0 .. 1 .. -- .. 1

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