LANDOVER -- The Washington Capitals hardly could wait to get right wing Pat Peake back into their lineup. They had concluded that his four-week absence because of injury was the reason their power play had become nearly extinct. His return, it was hoped, would turn things around.
So much for hopes.
Peake, who had been sidelined with thyroid cartilage damage, did make a stunning entrance, assisting on the game's first goal last night, but it was the Tampa Bay Lightning that won the game, 2-1. Goalie Daren Puppa stopped all but one of Washington's 27 shots.
"We dominated for two periods, but once they got their second goal, we didn't get a sniff," said Capitals coach Jim Schoenfeld, whose team managed just two shots in the third period. "I wish I had an answer for you as to why, but right now I don't."
A goal by Tampa Bay's Shawn Burr with 1:07 left in the first period offset a beauty by Washington's Sylvain Cote off the assist from Peake. And when Paul Ysebaert scored 4:46 into the third period, it made it possible for Tampa Bay to beat Washington for only the second time in franchise history.
The win also ended an 0-5 run against the Caps and goalie Jim Carey, who had a 1.00 goals-against average against Tampa coming into the game.
"I don't even remember the last time we beat Washington," said center Brian Bradley, who assisted on Ysebaert's game-winning goal. "Carey has been the difference, I think, in a lot of their victories. Tonight we won, we beat them and that is all the bottom line is. It's two points for us. It's three wins in a row for us. It's a big win and we're happy."
Last night, Carey made 13 saves, obviously an unlucky number. As the Capitals begin a four-game road trip tonight in Hartford, Conn., they are a .500 team with a 10-10-1 record and just 1-6-1 in their last eight games.
But there are worse numbers. The Caps were 0-for-4 on the power play last night, which means they are 0-for-the-last-29 and 12-for-120 overall. That makes Washington's power play unit the worst in the NHL.
"People have to understand we're doing all the things we're supposed to be doing on the power play," said Washington's Joe Juneau. "We've got to try to build on some of the positives."
Added Peake, "We had a lot of chances, lots of good opportunities on the power play. The puck just isn't going into the net right now. We outplayed them all over the ice, but you can't win if the puck won't go into the net."
The USAir Arena crowd of 15,117 didn't seem to care that the Capitals outshot the oposition or that Washington played good defense. The crowd booed loudly as time ran out.
"Good is scoring," Schoenfeld said. "Good is winning. We're not scoring or winning. So, when you start calling a loss good, then you're in real trouble. I think we should all be disappointed tonight. It just wasn't good enough.
"When we had to mount an attack when we were a goal behind, we just didn't do it. I give Tampa Bay a lot of credit for that. They did a good job in the neutral zone, but we know how to play through the trap. We know you have to support the puck, that you have to make indirect passes and we had players actually skating away from the puck carrier, hoping that he might get it through four or five players to them for an empty net goal. It's not going to happen. We made it easy for them."
Cote's goal off Peake's assist just 3:41 into the game turned out to be Washington's first and last goal.
"It was a great way to start the night," said Peake, "but it was a terrible finish."
Peake was credited with just one shot last night, but had a first-period goal disallowed because it went into the net off his glove.
"I should have pulled my hand back and knocked it in with my stick, but it all happened so fast," he said, of the play that included being cross-checked from behind by Chris Gratten.
Tampa Bay .1 0 1 -- 2
Washington 1 0 0 -- 1