CALGARY, FEB. 15 -- The Washington Capitals may want to seek an exemption from having to play here next season.
The Calgary Flames picked the Capitals apart with six second-period goals for an 8-2 victory before 20,132 at the Saddledome.
The loss, which broke a three-game winning streak for the Capitals, was hauntingly familiar to their Oct. 27 visit. In that one, the Flames beat the Capitals, 9-4. Mike Liut was in goal that night, and for the start of this one too, but in neither case was he given much assistance.
"We never showed up to play in either game," said goalie Don Beaupre, who relieved Liut in the second period with the score 6-2. "We embarrassed ourselves as bad as we could both times."
Doug Gilmour, Ric Nattress, Sergei Makarov, Theo Fleury, Stephane Matteau, Jamie Macoun, Gary Roberts and Brian MacLellan scored for the Flames, who are 6-1-1 in their last eight games. After getting first-period goals by Mikhail Tatarinov and Mike Ridley, the Capitals couldn't mount much offense.
There hadn't been much activity for Liut in recent weeks. Beaupre started the last eight games, during which the Capitals went 5-2-1. Liut's last start was Jan. 24, when the Capitals lost, 6-1, to the Flyers at The Spectrum. Capitals Coach Terry Murray is superstitious enough that he normally doesn't go away from something that is working, but the Capitals must play in Vancouver Saturday night with less than 24 hours between games. Beaupre was tentatively due to be back in goal Saturday night against the Canucks at Pacific Coliseum.
"I'm sure Mike Liut would like to have this back and start all over," Murray said. "But then we didn't help him or give him much support either."
The Capitals hadn't played since Sunday's high-intensity, penalty-filled victory over Philadelphia. Four days, a jolt from the indefinite departure of John Kordic (alcohol-related problem) and a long plane ride added up to a performance as flat as the Alberta prairie east of here.
"We talked about that," said left wing Nick Kypreos, who kept plugging until the end, trying to generate some activity. "We didn't come out with a great first period, but even then we were tied. But in the second, we had mental lapses, which have cost us many times over."
Just 3:15 into the game, Gilmour was left unattended and he converted Fleury's feed for a 1-0 edge. Tatarinov, who left with an injured shoulder in the second period, caught Flames goalie Mike Vernon off guard and scored for a 1-1 tie with 5:36 gone. But after three failed clearing passes by the Capitals, Nattress's shot hit a skate and went past Liut. Ridley, who has points in nine straight games, snapped a shot past Vernon for a 2-2 tie with 4:05 left in the first period.
"In the first period, we were okay," said Murray. "But with a couple turnovers at the start of the second period, it was a disaster."
This contest was decided in the first 72 seconds of the second period. Makarov carried into the Capitals zone on a two-on-two break. He drew two Capitals, but didn't feed Joe Nieuwendyk. No problem, for Calle Johansson and Kevin Hatcher stopped covering either. Makarov moved down the slot to score for a 3-2 lead with 21 seconds gone in the period.
"It was like the Red Sea parted and we walked right in and scored," said Fleury. He had similarly easy time a few seconds later. Fleury lifted the puck from Tatarinov at the Calgary blue line and scored on a breakaway for a 4-2 lead.
Murray tried a timeout, but the floodwaters were over the bank by then. Matteau scored from the slot with 4:37 gone and Macoun scored a shorthanded goal with 8:04 elapsed. On that one, two Capitals went back to get the puck, but there apparently was miscommunication for both went to the same corner and Liut sent the puck the other way.
Murray sent in Beaupre, who stopped a few more shots than Liut, but was still left out in the cold a couple times. The Capitals were caught in a line change and Roberts scored on a breakaway. MacLellan then finished the second period (and game) scoring with a goal with 3:33 left.