They waited 24 years for this?
The Washington Capitals played host to a Stanley Cup finals game for the first time in franchise history Saturday night, drawing a screaming sellout crowd of 19,740 to the MCI Center for the momentous event.
Unfortunately, the Capitals gave the pom-pon waving fans very little to cheer about. Washington fell behind the defending champion Detroit Red Wings 35 seconds into the game and played catchup for most of the 2-1 loss to the defending champion Detroit Red Wings.
Home-ice advantage made no difference for the Capitals, who have lost all three games of the series by one goal. Washington wasted a 32-save effort from Olaf Kolzig to fall into a deep hole in the best-of-7 series.
Only one team in history has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in a Stanley Cup finals, and the Capitals have thus far given no indication that they're going to add their name to the very short list.
"We just have to concentrating on winning the next game Tuesday," Kolzig said. "The worst thing we can do now is think about having to win four straight."
Put it this way: If President Clinton wants to see another hockey game this season he'd better show up Tuesday night, because it looks as if Game 6, scheduled for next Saturday for the MCI Center, isn't going to happen.
It was yet another frustrating performance by the Capitals, who had seemingly put an end to their tradition of playoff failure by winning the Eastern Conference championship for the first time.
Instead, the Capitals appear poised to be swept by a Detroit team that has proven itself to be just a little bit better on both ends of the ice.
"Detroit has been persistent and appears to be on a mission," Capitals coach Ron Wilson said.
Detroit outshot the Capitals 34-18, including 13-1 in the first period.
"What can you say? We had a bad start to the game," Wilson said. "We basically didn't show up in the first period."
It's not just the first period; Detroit has outshot the Capitals 125-68 in the three games.
"I don't think we're skating hard enough as a team to get shots and I don't think we're throwing the puck to the net enough," left wing Craig Berube said.
"A lot of their shots aren't ones that they're always going to make. But they throw the puck at the net and then they crash the net. We don't do that," Berube concluded.
After trailing 1-0 for most of the game, the Capitals managed to make it 1-1 with 9:25 left in the third period on a power-play goal by Brian Bellows.
"I thought, `OK, it's time for us to turn it around,"' Kolzig said.
The deadlock lasted exactly 4 minutes and 33 seconds before Sergei Fedorov scored for the Red Wings with 4:25 remaining to put Detroit ahead anput the crowd into a stunned silence.
"Fedorov made a great play," Kolzig said. "I think the puck took off higher than he planned."
Washington took the first shot of the game, then went nearly 20 minutes before taking another one. The bottom line: you can't score if you don't shoot.
"Detroit seems to be bringing five guys in front of the goalie," Washington's Sergei Gonchar said. "We have to shoot through their legs and everything, whatever."
Detroit had a 16-1 advantage in shots early in the second period before Washington finally got some flow in its offense.
"I wouldn't say they dominated us," Kolzig said. "They scored early and that took the wind out of our sails. But were able to get into the flow in the second period. I thought we responded well."
Perhaps, but it all added up to yet another one-goal loss.
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