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Backs against the wall

Caps hope to bounce back at home

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Posted: Friday June 12, 1998 07:15 PM

  The Wings put up 60 shots against Olaf Kolzig in Game 2 (AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Down 2-0 to the Detroit Red Wings isn't the Washington Capitals most immediate problem.

It's how they lost Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final Thursday night.

They blew a pair of two-goal leads in the third period and lost 5-4 in overtime. They also lost most of the battles against the boards, never physically challenged the Red Wings, allowed 60 shots against goaltender Olaf Kolzig and didn't pay the price needed to win an entertaining, wide-open game.

Now, the Caps will have to bounce back as they promised in the wee hours of Friday.

Working in their favor will be having Game 3 at the MCI Center Saturday night, the first time a finals game has been played in the nation's capital.

"We have been a resilient team all season, and yeah, it's going to be tough to bounce back," Capitals coach Ron Wilson said Friday, after an optional workout at the team's practice facility at Odenton, Maryland.

"That is tough psychologically to have a two-goal lead in the third period and to lose in overtime the way we did, but I trust that we will be bounce back. We've faced a lot of adversity throughout the season and this is the ultimate test, to have that kind of game and let it slip through your hands."

What the Caps have consistently overcome in Wilson's first season as coach is injuries. The team lost a club-record 476 man-games to injury.

However, overcoming a Red Wings' club focused on winning its second straight Stanley Cup will take a lot more.

Detroit is unbeaten in nine straight against Washington dating to the 1993-94 season. In the wins in this series, the Red Wings got the victory in different ways.

On Tuesday, they grabbed a quick 2-0 and let goaltender Chris Osgood hold off the Capitals. Two nights later, it was a great third-period comeback, then the game-winner by Kris Draper in overtime, his first of the playoffs.

"We're a very confident team and it has nothing to do with us being up 2-0," Red Wings forward Joe Kocur said. "From what we did last year and what we have done this year, there is an aura of confidence that we feel every game, whether we're up 2-0 here or down 2-1 playing in Phoenix. We feel we have the guns to do it."

Capitals captain Dale Hunter said it was frustrating blowing the lead Thursday night and falling behind 2-0. However, he looked more to the positives, the fact that both games were decided on the road by a goal.

"We have to come home and play well in our own rink and do what they did," Hunter said. "They won twice in their rink. They kept home ice and we just have to win in our own rink."

The Red Wings didn't arrive in Washington until Friday afternoon and they didn't seem excited about having a ninth Cup in team history in sight.

"I think that the closer you get, the less you allow yourself to get ahead of yourself," forward Brendan Shanahan said. "It's way too early to think like that. You have to win four games. Even last year while most of the people celebrated and prepared to win, we were the last ones to celebrate. We waited until we won the fourth game."

The Red Wings may be shorthanded for Game 3. Left wing Vyacheslav Kozlov sustained a charley horse in his left leg when hit by Capitals defenseman Sergei Gonchar.

Kozlov plans to test the leg during Saturday morning's skate. If he is unable to play, Mathieu Dandenault will make his first appearance in the series.

Game 3 will be played on the first anniversary of the limousine crash that seriously injured Red Wings defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov and massage therapist Sergei Mnatsakanov, just six days after Detroit won the Cup last year.


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