Forum ghosts spook Caps one last time Montreal hits net with 4 of first 5 shots in 5-3 win


MONTREAL -- They often talk about ghosts at the Montreal Forum, but they usually are Canadien ghosts. Last night, as the Washington Capitals played their last game here, they found a few of their own, who must have been rattling around since the 1970s, when the Caps were an expansion team and losing regularly to Montreal.

Last night, they lost again, 5-3, and leave the Forum for the last time with a 7-30-6 record in the storied old facility that is being replaced March 16.

"Maybe it's a good thing they're going to tear this old place down," said Caps goaltender Jim Carey, who saw four pucks get past him on Montreal's first five shots. "Maybe it'll give us a new start."

Carey didn't have much of a chance against a wide-open Mark Recchi with 3:40 gone or against Vincent Damphousse, who dove across the crease to put back a rebound 17 seconds later. And Martin Rucinsky saw little opposition on a power play about 10 minutes after that.

Then came Damphousse again, taking full advantage of a screen.

"When you're having a night like that, you don't expect to stop something you can't see," said Carey, who was replaced by Olie Kolzig (14 saves). "The first three are bang-bang and the fourth is a screen. I'm speechless."

He also was defenseless, as player after player confessed they had let their goalie down.

"We missed our coverage on all four goals," said defenseman Calle Johansson, who was on the ice for the power-play score. "Those guys were basically standing wide-open. We weren't ready to play and when you're not ready, this is the kind of thing that happens."

It was a surprisingly emotionless display by Washington, which had been playing physical hockey in its last two games, both wins.

But last night, in front of a sellout crowd of 16,739, the Caps simply didn't have it, falling to 23-21-5.

Montreal, meanwhile, is 25-19-6 and unbeaten in its last four games. The win also stretches its lead over the Caps to five points in the battle for fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings.

"It was a situation where we didn't do what we had done in the first two games against them," said Washington coach Jim Schoenfeld, whose team won the first two. "We didn't take away time and space, finish our checks and beat our man back into the play. It has to start with finishing your check and we didn't do that."

The loss wasted a three-point night by Joe Juneau (a goal and two assists) and goals by Sergei Gonchar and Steve Konowalchuk, as Montreal goalie Jocelyn Thibault made 23 saves to make the 4-0 first-period lead hold up.

NOTES: On Nov. 10, Toronto scored on five of its first eight shots against the Caps. . . . C Pat Peake was a late scratch due to illness. . . . Newly acquired RW Denis Chasse played on a line with Juneau and Stefan Ustorf. . . . C Mike Eagles played his first game since suffering a broken finger New Year's Day vs. Pittsburgh.

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