The Washington Capitals' winless string reached seven games last night and there was no tie for a consolation prize.With Marcel Dionne collecting three goals and defensive specialist Dan Bonar scoring the winner, the Los Angeles Kings stretched their unbeaten streak to 10 games with a 5-3 decision at Capital Centre.
They should give Dionne part ownership of the Centre, or, at the least, a Capital jersey. In 37 games against Washington, he has recorded 31 goals and 41 assists.
The Capitals actually did a pretty good job defending Dionne and his high-scoring linemates, Dave Taylor and Charlie Simmer. Capital Coach Gary Green shook up his lines and sent a new threesome of Ryan Walter, Wes Jarvis and Jean Pronovost against the NHL's three top scorers.
Walter usually had the assignment of skating high and picking up the first Los Angeles forward up the ice, usually Dionne. Walter not only was successful in confining Dionne much of the time, but he also put Taylor out of action with a second-period check that disabled Taylor's left shoulder. o
However, Dionne has a way of escaping the most tenacious dragnet. He scored in the first period on a pass that struck a Washington skate, connected in the second after some fancy power-play passing and closed out the scoring on an empty net with two seconds left.
The decisive goal came from Bonar, whose superb penalty killing had helped keep the Capitals shotless and scorned during two first-period power plays. With the score tied, 3-3, Washington goalie Mike Palmateer permitted the rebound of Steve Jensen's shot to go out to the slot and Bonar quickly pounced on it and put it away. It was only the second NHL goal for the 24-year-old center.
The Capitals outshot Los Angeles, 13-6, in the final period, but King goalie Mario Lessard made 13 saves and the crowd of 8,719 left unhappy. It was a particularly sad ending for Capital fans since the Capitals were blessed with a power play after Los Angeles' Mark Hardy was chased for holding with 2:40 left. They never threatened.
"When you get as many shots as we did (37, to the Kings' 21), you ought to get more goals," Green said. "We haven't had an easy time putting the puck in the net. We've got some questions we're going to find answers to and one is putting the puck in the net."
After Garry Unger's deflection of a Jay Wells drive put Los Angeles in front, Jean Pronovost found the net for Washington. He was pulled down in the slot, but managed as he fell to the ice to poke his own rebound past Lessard.
Dionne made it 2-1 on a strange goal. Tied up by defenseman Howard Walker as he skated down the right side, Dionne reached out and tried to pass the puck into the slot. It struck Walker's skate and caromed behind Palmateer, who was reaching out with his stick to break up the pass.
Pierre Bouchard's first goal of the season, a 55-footer on which Lessard was screened by Wells, tied it once again. Dionne untied it after Washington's Paul Mulvey was sent off for charging, on the Kings' 20th power-play score of the season, high in the NHL.
Bengt Gustafsson, whose ice time has been dwindling lately, pulled the Capitals even for the third and last time. Lessard, occupied with Guy Charron at the side of the net, permitted the puck to slide out to Gustafsson and the Swede, temporarily replacing Mulvey on the Charron-Mike Gartner line, netted his fifth goal with only 40 seconds left in the second period.
A last-minute goal usually fires up the scoring team for the next period and the Capitals came out flying, building a 4-0 edge in shots over the first five minutes. Then Bonar connected and the Capital balloon collapsed.
Home ice, after a five-game road trip in which the team tied four and lost to Los Angeles, was not as great as advertised. For the first time, Green showed some impatience with critical fans, who are a bit impatient themselves after watching a team that has won 114 games and lost 303.
"Fans were leaning over the bench, asking me, 'Why don't you teach that team to forecheck,'" Green said. "How can you complain that we're laying back playing defensively when we outshoot them 37 to 21?"
Well, Green is only 27. Perhaps when he grows up, he will learn that hockey fans can complain about anything.