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ESA MAY BE JUST THE 'TICK-ET' TO HELP CAPS REACH GOAL

Esa Tikkanen almost won his friendly bet with teammate Craig Berube.

The gregarious Finn, whose lively personality and winning attitude have been a welcome addition for the Washington Capitals, appeared to score his first even-strength goal with his new team in the third period of Tuesday night's 5-2 victory over the New York Islanders.

"Tick was back at the bench yapping away," Washington coach Ron Wilson said, "because he thought he'd scored."

But the goal was waved off because the puck didn't completely cross the red line, leaving Tikkanen still in a jovial competition with Berube as to who will score the next goal.

"And the deal is they can't count power-play goals because chief (Berube) doesn't get those opportunities," Wilson said.

Tikkanen scored with a man advantage earlier in the game. It was not only the game-winner, but it was only his second goal of the season and first to go along with seven assists since he was acquired from Florida three weeks ago.

"I'm excited. I'm like a little kid," Tikkanen said of his chance to help a franchise without much playoff success make a solid late-season run. "I think they wanted experience in the dressing room, guys who know what it takes to win a Stanley Cup. I've been there."

The Islanders' leading scorer, Zigmund Palffy, who assisted on both goals by Mariusz Czerkawski to raise his points total to 73, sprained his ankle sliding into the boards. He is listed as day-to-day.

Lindros to return vs. Sabres

PHILADELPHIA -- Eric Lindros, out since March 7 with a concussion, will return to the Philadelphia Flyers lineup April 13 against the Buffalo Sabres.

"It's a date," the Flyers captain said Tuesday night, "something to focus on."

Lindros suffered a concussion after a legal hit by Darius Kasparaitis of the Pittsburgh Penguins. He had normal neurological tests March 23 and finally skated symptom-free on Sunday.

"I'm feeling a lot better," Lindros said Tuesday. "I skated really hard today. The bottom line is being cautious."

Philadelphia is 7-4-2 since Lindros was hurt. That includes a 3-2 victory Tuesday over Chicago.

John LeClair scored his 45th and 46th goals as Philadelphia clinched a playoff spot.

'Canes grab big point

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Robert Kron scored early in the third period to help Carolina tie Montreal and salvage a valuable point.

Keith Primeau and Martin Gelinas also scored for the Hurricanes, who moved within three points of eighth-place Ottawa in the East.

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