LANDOVER -- So, you thought this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series would be a sweep? In the Washington Capitals-Pittsburgh Penguins series? Not these two. These two love going at it over the long haul. It's the way they play the game.
For two games, the Capitals, with tremendous team play and goaltending from Olie Kolzig, made Pittsburgh pay for its defensive lapses and cockiness.
But last night, the Penguins had no lapses and Penguins goalie Tom Barrasso (38 saves) came within a Sylvain Cote shot from the point on the team's 10th power play of collecting his fifth postseason shutout with a 4-1 victory.
Capitals coach Jim Schoenfeld decided to go with his No. 1 goalie, Jim Carey, who made 19 saves but had the misfortune of playing his first full game in the series on a night when the Penguins decided to show their wrath.
The Penguins, no doubt, had had enough of reading in their hometown newspapers about how dumb they were. Last night, they threw big checks and played defense. They made Peter Bondra disappear and the little team that believes it could who surround him couldn't.
Pittsburgh made it look alarmingly easy.
Lemieux isn't the NHL's leading point scorer for no reason. In this game, he assisted on all four of Pittsburgh's goals by Ron Francis (power play), Glen Murray, Dave Roche and Kevin Miller.
The win pulls the Penguins within one game in the series that continues here with Game 4 tomorrow. Pittsburgh is trying to become only the 10th team in NHL history to rally for a series win after losing the first two games on home ice.
The result was a disappointment for the announced sellout crowd at USAir Arena, who began serious departure moves with 9: 44 to play.
Which meant many of them were in the parking lot at 9: 06 when the very physical game erupted in an all-out fight, with all 10 skaters dropping their gloves and sticks.
When the melee was over, Barrasso sorted out the equipment spread in front of him and the officials sorted out 26 minutes of penalties. The end result was the Caps got their 10th power-play opportunity of the night.
And 25 seconds before it was over, Pat Peake won a faceoff in the Penguins' zone and Cote blasted the shot from the point, through Barrasso's pads.
At the end of the first period, the scoreboard looked just the way it did at the end of Game 2. The Penguins were ahead, 2-0. But last night, there was a difference.
Yes, the Capitals had more good chances, outshooting the Penguins, 10-3. But the Penguins, you get the idea, got their power-play goal from Francis on the first shot of the game. They got theirsecond goal on the third shot, when Murray deflected Sergei Zubov's shot from the point past Carey, who was being screened by Miller.
And despite being down, 2-0, Washington could consider itself lucky. At 13: 52 of the first period, Mario Lemieux picked up a loose puck at the red line, spun and was about to zoom in one-on-one on Carey, when he ran smack into referee Bill McCreary. End of breakaway.
Near the five-minute mark, Petr Nedved and Francis broke out on a two-on-one that wasn't stopped until Francis hit the post. Little more than a minute later, Neved and Jaromir Jagr got out on the odd man break. This time, Capitals defenseman Jimmy Johnson, he of the injured foot, hurled his body in front of the net to block Nedved's shot.
In Games 1 and 2, it was at this point that the Penguins began to come apart. They cheated on defense and paid the price as the Capitals rallied for back-to-back comeback victories.
But not last night. In this one, the Penguins gave the Capitals no room to operate. The Capitals' power-play unit that had been scoring at a 36 percent clip, best in the postseason, could not score on seven tries through two periods.
And it didn't matter how well Carey played or how hard Kelly Miller, Mike Eagles, Johnson and Eric Charron played in front of him during a Penguins power play at 11: 27, the Penguins kept coming in waves.
Miller, open in front of the Capitals' net with 4: 00 left in the middle period, made it 4-0.
NOTES: Rookie Nolan Baumgartner suited up last night and played. . . . The Caps announced Wednesday's Game 4, like Game 2, will be carried throughout the Baltimore area, on TCI Channel 72 in Baltimore, Channel 43 in Baltimore County and Channel 40 in Howard County.
Pub Date: 4/23/96