With news after the game that Matt Bradley will miss the next two to four weeks with a broken finger, it sets an even bigger stage for two call-ups from the Hershey Bears who had strong showings Tuesday night against the Devils. Andrew Gordon potted his first NHL goal and Jay Beagle tallied his second to help boost the Capitals to their 5-1 win over New Jersey for their second straight victory.
It was a night to be relished by both Caps and Hershey Bears' fans as three of the five goal scorers and winning netminder were part of the 2010 Calder Cup winning team. They were joined on the scoreboard by Jason Chimera and Mike Knuble as Washington's secondary scorers pushed themselves to the forefront at Verizon Center.
"You count on your star players but at the same time it's your role players that complete the victory," Coach Bruce Boudreau said.
The win tonight allowed the Capitals (44 points) to reclaim the top spot in the Southeast Division as well, in what may be something of a back-and-forth here for a bit with the Atlanta Thrashers, who lost to St. Louis. It's the fourth day in a row that the division lead has changed hands.
Also of note is that Washington reached 20 wins in 36 games, or just four contests shy of the pace the Capitals had in the 2009-10 season when they finished with a team-record 54 wins.
-- In two consecutive games now, we've watched players recalled from the Hershey Bears drive to the net and get rewarded. Against Ottawa it was Mathieu Perreault and against the Devils, it was Gordon and then Beagle.
For his first NHL goal, Gordon beat Patrik Elias back to the top of the Devils' crease as Marcus Johansson put on a show with his speed to claim a loose puck on the left-wing boards, where he sent a perfect tape-to-tape pass toward his teammate. Gordon was so appreciative of the pass that he gave Johansson a kiss on the cheek while on the bench. I'll have more on Gordon's first NHL goal tomorrow morning.
Beagle had been camped out in front of Martin Brodeur on nearly every shift and in the second period he cashed in. After Bradley was crunched on the right-side boards when pushed the puck deep into the New Jersey zone -- he did not return after that shift -- David Steckel took it below the goal line and sent it to the front of the net just as he began to pass behind the cage. Beagle stuffed the shot past Brodeur to make it 2-1.
"We just kept saying, just keep the pressure on get down low and get a cycle going and get some energy for the team and keep working hard and good things are going to happen," Beagle said. "On the goal there, Brads makes a great play, takes a big hit, to get it deep and then Stecks makes a great pass. We had a lot of good chances and it was fun to play."
-- Jason Chimera's effort to finish on that breakaway despite having a defender draped across his shoulders made it 3-1 and counted as the left-wing's 200th career NHL point, after he went the past 14 contests without one.
-- John Carlson made it 4-1 when he followed up on a play that looked to be a scoring chance for Alex Ovechkin, until New Jersey defenseman Colin White poked the puck off his stick. Carlson led the Capitals with a plus-4 rating and played a second-most 23:42 (behind only Mike Green's 25:45).
"I was just about to turn to the bench and get a change and he poke checked him. I was like, 'Oh wow this looks good,' " said Carlson, who hadn't scored in the past 11 games. "I really got to step into it, so it felt pretty good to finally score. It's been a little while now."
-- Michal Neuvirth had strong night, finishing with 35 saves. He is 9-2-2 at Verizon Center this season with a 2.86 goals-against average and .904 save percentage.
-- This was Scott Hannan's 600th NHL game since the start of the 2002-03 season, which is the most played by any defenseman. Martin St. Louis (604 games played) and Andrew Brunette (603) are the only players with more games in that span.