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Caps catch up to Rangers, then fall, 5-3 Leetch's goal near end ruins three-goal rally

LANDOVER — LANDOVER -- A terrific three-goal rally by the Washington Capitals wasn't enough last night as New York Rangers defenseman Brian Leetch got his second goal of the night with 36.8 seconds left and Adam Graves scored into an open net to pull out a 5-3 victory.

The result disappointed the 16,250 fans at USAir Arena, who saw a strong effort by goalie Olie Kolzig, who came on in relief of Jim Carey in the first period and stoned the Rangers for 47 minutes before getting beat.

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"It's a tough night," said Kolzig, who made 19 saves. "Anytime you come back from three-nothing against the Rangers and then, with a minute left, they score to win the game, it's tough. But we should never have had to do that. We got in penalty trouble early and dug ourselves a hole. But we showed a lot of character in coming back."

Leetch's goal wiped out Washington's hopes that Peter Bondra's second goal with 6: 45 to go would at least hold up for the tie.

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The victory was the first by the Rangers over Washington in four tries this season. It marked the ninth time this season that the Caps, now 20-22-5, have failed to reach .500.

After allowing the Rangers a 3-0 lead in the first period, Washington scrapped its way back into the game in the second period with help from its two All-Stars, Dale Hunter and Bondra.

First, Hunter put the puck on Steve Konowalchuk's stick just in time for Konowalchuk to poke it past Rangers goalie Glenn Healy at 7: 28. From there, the Caps continued to control the puck, outshooting New York 19-7 in the period and having the best of the power-play calls, two-to-one, including a five-on-three for 50 seconds.

But it wasn't until there was just 57.1 seconds left in the period, when Sergei Gonchar picked off a Wayne Gretzky pass and got the puck to Bondra.

The NHL's fastest man zoomed down the left side and unloaded a slap shot that Healy never saw to pull the Caps within 3-2.

Pub Date: 1/23/97


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