LANDOVER — LANDOVER - One night the Washington Capitals are setting records for shutout scoring margins and the next, they're losing, 5-2, to the suddenly inspired Boston Bruins.
The best news for the Capitals, in a three-way tie with the Montreal Canadiens and Bruins for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, is that they don't lose points for a defeat.
"We have to do it the team way and tonight we didn't," Washington coach Jim Schoenfeld said. "We've got three weeks to go to the end of the season, but from the immediacy of it, it's a real big loss because they were a team behind us and we could have put four points between us. But there are still 14 games left, that's 28 points available. . . . There is a lot of hockey to be played."
The Capitals will try to produce something more akin to Tuesday's 9-0 shutout of the Western Conference Vancouver Canucks tomorrow, when they take on another Western Conference foe, the Dallas Stars and their All-Star defenseman Kevin Hatcher. This will be Hatcher's first appearance here since Washington traded him for Mark Tinordi on Jan. 18, 1995.
There was little doubt in the opening period that the Bruins had arrived at USAir Arena with an attitude. You could see it in their faces, in their body language and, finally, in the way they dominated the period.
"We certainly knew the importance of the game," said Boston coach Steve Kasper. "We had a real good first 10 minutes. Our power play executed really well and scored."
The Bruins, who stretched their winning streak to five games and are trying to make the playoffs for the 29th straight year, wasted little time in finding the Capitals' Achilles' heel. With just 1: 04 gone in the game, Adam Oates scored on Boston's second shot of the game, a rebound off Ray Bourque's initial shot for that power-play goal and a 1-0 lead.
It is the 34th time in 68 games the Capitals have given up a goal on one of the opposing team's first three shots. The Caps fought back for a 2-1 lead on goals by Todd Krygier and Dale Hunter, but gave up four straight goals.
Kasper said the one "that swung the momentum" to Boston came with 10: 14 gone in the second period, when Oates stole the puck from Washington defenseman Calle Johansson and scored short-handed.
"We were reeling in the second period," said Kasper, "and that goal put us back on level ground for a while."
Washington goalie Jim Carey (23 saves) had a clear view of the play.
"The guy made a nice move on Calle," Carey said. "He just grabbed it away from him and then dragged it and dragged it across the net. It's the kind of play goal-scorers dream about. But you don't let in short-handed goals. For myself, for the team, that's a bad goal."
Johansson thought the Capitals had time to recover, but acknowledged his mistake.
"It was a bad play," he said. "I lost the puck and he scored a goal. What can I say? I'm back-skating, I'm looking for someone to pass to and Oates makes a real good play, though I probably made a real bad play."
Boston's Steve Heinze made it 3-2 before the end of the second period and with 7: 28 gone in the third, Jozef Stumpel made it 4-2.
After that, Boston goalie Bill Ranford was stunning; he ended with 33 saves.
Bruins Shawn McEachern added an empty-net goal with 1: 12 to play.
"We could have put Boston behind us, but it didn't happen," said Hunter. "It's one of those games where the execution wasn't good. Execution. It's a good word. You've got to have it if you want to win."
NOTES: The Caps acquired goaltender Martin Brochu from Montreal for considerations.
Boston ... 1 2 2 5
Washington 0 2 0 2
Pub Date: 3/16/96