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Caps lose 2-goal lead in 3-3 tie

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Four minutes from their first road victory of the season, the Washington Capitals collapsed yesterday, and coach Jim Schoenfeld couldn't find much consolation even from the point gained in a 3-3 tie with the New Jersey Devils.

"I hate to label ties and losses as good," Schoenfeld said. "We can't keep alibiing. The final result is all that matters. Territorial play and shots on goal are only a means to an end, and that end is to score more goals than the other team."

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By any standard, the Caps had the advantage in a matinee attended by 16,832.

They outshot the Devils in every period. They built a 3-1 lead on goals by Kelly Miller, Peter Bondra and Dale Hunter.

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As the third period ticked away, the Caps dominated to such an extent that hundreds of fans deserted the Meadowlands Arena.

Then the Caps lost it.

John MacLean pulled the Devils within 3-2 at 16:14. The tying goal came at 18:09, when defenseman Ken Daneyko pinched in from the right point. The puck came to former Cap Bobby Carpenter at the side of the net. He took a whack and overpowered Calle Johansson for the rebound, putting it under Olie Kolzig.

"We played with composure for 50 minutes and played without it for 10, and it cost us a point," Schoenfeld said. "We lost our composure with the puck. We stopped making plays and turned it over. The puck became something we didn't want on our stick."

Washington has four points in its past four games, its best streak of the season. After Thursday's 5-5 tie in Ottawa, the Caps have their first nonlosing streak of the season.

Asked if the team was playing better, Miller said it was -- in spots.

"But then we give up the odd-man rush or make the mistake. We played well for most of the game, but we lost our composure in the last six minutes," Miller said.

The teams played a scoreless first period in which Washington took six of the 10 shots. Then New Jersey went ahead on an innocent-looking play at 3:57 of the second.

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Brian Rolston banked the puck around Sylvain Cote to Bill Guerin. With a semi-covered Corey Millen streaking down the middle as a decoy, Guerin fired through the legs of defenseman Joe Reekie. Kolzig, who was concerned about a pass, stayed in the net instead of challenging the shooter, and the puck went in.

Dave Poulin then lifted the Caps with a masterpiece of play-making. He veered past defenders, holding the puck. He floated a pass to the blue line just as Jim Johnson was charging into the zone. Johnson slapped it on the move, and Miller tipped it past goalie Martin Brodeur for his third goal.

Twenty seconds later, Michal Pivonka won a faceoff and drew back to Bondra, who beat Brodeur for his team-leading seventh goal.

Meanwhile, New Jersey was unable to place a shot on goal for the first 10 minutes of the third period. Then the Devils stirred. First, Stephane Richer had a close-in chance that Kolzig blocked. Then, in a flurry, Claude Lemieux and Scott Niedermayer fired at Kolzig, flat on the ice.

Instead of giving up the tying goal, the Caps opened a two-goal lead at 12:23, when Hunter backhanded a rebound into the net dTC from in front.

Washington ..0 ..0 ..3 ..0 ..-- ..3

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New Jersey ..0 ..1 ..2 ..0 ..-- ..3



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