What's wrong with this picture? In a long week's work, the Washington Capitals never lost a game, got three home-ice victories and defeated the Stanley Cup champion New York Islanders, 3-1, Saturday. That brought them into the thick of the Patrick Division standings, tied for third with the New York Rangers.
"The difference is, now our defense plays as a unit, and the whole team knows its responsibilities," captain Rod Langway said. "Early on (in the season) we seemed to break down on one play--in the net. But not now. And I still think we could've got a shutout (Saturday against the Islanders)."
Al Jensen, the goalie who's been involved in all three victories, finds life in the nets a little easier, thanks to teammates such as Langway. "The guys are not giving them (opposition) any second shots," he said. "When I get out, I can stop the first one, and I know the majority of the time I won't see a second."
The always-candid Bryan Murray said, "Jensen played well, our power play did well, and we put our strength against theirs, and it paid off."
Specifically, Murray lined up Doug Jarvis against Bryan Trottier, a matchup that limited the usually productive Trottier to a single shot on goal, and the only assist on New York's only goal.
Trottier wouldn't even discuss the game later, saying only, "We don't have any answers."
The Islanders had been shut out by Minnesota on Thursday, and went through a four-game winless streak last week. "We're not clicking together," Coach Al Arbour said, studying a copy of the game's final statistics. His club had put 25 shots at Jensen, but "missed the nice easy ones."
"We've missed the net so much lately," he said. Arbour acknowledged that his club missed the services of all-star defenseman Denis Potvin, who sat out Thursday and Saturday with a neck problem. "Missing Denis as well as (defensemen) Tomass (Jonsson), (Mike) McEwen, and Stef (Stefan Persson, who went off with a back problem during the first period), that's a big part of it."
But Arbour gave the Capitals their due. "They made an effort to improve, and they certainly have," he said. "Just having (Rod) Langway and (Brian) Enblom makes a difference for them . . ."
Although the Islanders appear to be flailing through their annual semislump, Arbour insists there is no hysteria in Uniondale. "We're missing some obvious things," he said. "but this is not a panic situation."
"They did miss a couple of their guys," Murray said, adding that Washington had been skating hurt in the club's last meeting Oct. 21, which Washington lost, 6-3. "We had people like Gus (Bengt Gustafsson) so sick from the flu, they shouldn't have played.
"But it's great to beat them, and I don't feel sorry for them at all."