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  With Luck, Isles Find Way to Win
By Robert Fachet
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 26, 1993; Page C09


Capitals Logo UNIONDALE, N.Y., April 25 — The Washington Capitals can point to bad luck as a big reason for three straight overtime losses to the New York Islanders in the opening round of the National Hockey League playoffs. Saturday night, as they fell here in a second extra period, 4-3, the Capitals had Todd Krygier's apparent goal disallowed by referee Terry Gregson when they led 3-1, and they watched Mike Ridley whack a potential winner off a post in the first overtime.

As much as luck has been a factor in this strange series, though, so has psychology. If the Capitals no longer can be certain of victory, regardless of the size of their lead, the Islanders are gaining confidence that they can win no matter the dimensions of the task facing them.

"After the second period, we sat in the dressing room and talked, and basically what we said was, 'We've done it before; we'll find a way,' " said overtime hero Ray Ferraro. "It's hard to put into words what's spoken when a team is down. We don't say a lot and you can't undo what's gone wrong.

"But you can't imagine what it meant for us to come back from 3-1 in the third period Thursday and win. We hadn't won a game all year where we were behind after two periods. But this is when it really matters and no matter how bad things have been — our power play stunk, our penalty killing was average, we made a lot of mistakes — we've found a way to do it."

Ferraro suffered a broken right leg Dec. 10 in Chicago and wound up playing only 46 games of what has become an interminable, virtually meaningless 84-game regular season. Now, when others are fading because of the grind they have endured since September, Ferraro is skating a step faster and shooting the puck with authority.

"They say the playoffs are a second season," Ferraro said. "For a guy who misses three months, that's doubly true. I'm fresh. I've only played half a season, so I'm in midseason form and it's mid-April."

Ferraro has scored a goal in seven straight games, including all four playoff contests. Saturday, while double shifting with fourth-liners Claude Loiselle and Tom Fitzgerald, he raced behind defenseman Paul Cavallini, took a perfect pass from Loiselle and buried the puck in the net.

"The puck came around the boards and it was spinning," Ferraro said. "Tom Fitzgerald made a great play controlling the puck and he made a great pass to Claude. I was in front of the {defense} and I yelled to Claude. He put it right on my tape and I didn't have time to tee it up. I just got it and shot it and it looked good hitting the back of the net."The Islanders' confidence does not go back just a week. Unlike the Capitals, they can reflect on years of success, especially in playoff overtimes, where their 28-7 record is by far the best in the NHL. They have won seven straight playoff overtime games since a loss at Capital Centre in 1985 and they have won nine in a row here, since a loss to Boston in 1980.

"I don't know the secret," said Coach Al Arbour. "If I knew, I'd bottle it and sell it. I've been around a long time and it's a funny game. The Lord is smiling on us, the way we keep coming up with those goals in overtime.

"Once we got the second goal, I had a feeling. Sometimes you get a team on the run and they try to play careful. When a team plays careful, they get in trouble. Probably the big thing with this team is the way the players started developing character in the last 30 games of the season. That character is coming out."

Goalie Glenn Healy, who matches Ferraro's 5-foot-10 and 185-pound frame, was another Islander who came up big, stopping 37 shots.

"In overtime, you have to raise the level of your game," Healy said. "There can't be any mistakes. I'm just glad Ray is on our side and not shooting at me. He's great when he gets around the putting green. Nobody's any better."

With all the euphoria among the Islanders, at least one couldn't help expressing some sympathy for the Capitals.

"I kind of feel for the other guys," said winger Steve Thomas. "There's a lot of character on this team and right now we're hitting on all cylinders, but we've been lucky too. We'd like to do it in three periods. Five periods can be taxing on your body, when it means this much."

© Copyright 1993 The Washington Post Company

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