Capitals vs. Devils: Washington rediscovers offense in 5-1 win against New Jersey

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 22, 2010; 12:14 AM

As the Washington Capitals struggled over the past few weeks, everyone within the organization talked about knowing that a game in which everything worked would be around the corner, it was just a matter of when. On Tuesday night, for the first time in nearly a month, against the New Jersey Devils, the Capitals rediscovered their reputation as an offensively gifted scoring juggernaut.

Led by the play of several members from the 2010 Hershey Bears team that won the Calder Cup, the Capitals defeated New Jersey 5-1, with 12 players recording points as Washington posted their second victory in a row after snapping an eight-game losing streak on Sunday.

To be sure, the plethora of opportunities for the Capitals was a partial product of the hapless Devils, losers in nine of their past 11 contests, who were stuck in the gears against a team trending upward. For Washington, this was an essential step in rebuilding its confidence with a show of strength not seen since Nov. 26, in a 6-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

But the bulk of the victory was spurred by the gritty efforts of unusual goal scorers and big nights for several former Hershey Bears or call-ups from the Capitals' American Hockey League affiliate. Among those members of last year's Calder Cup-winning team were goaltender Michal Neuvirth, who claimed his second victory and finished with 35 saves, while Andrew Gordon, Jay Beagle and John Carlson each tallied a goal.

"I thought they all played great," Coach Bruce Boudreau said when asked about call-ups Gordon and Beagle. "They had lots of energy, they followed direction and they played with passion and enthusiasm. When you do that, usually, no matter what league you're in you're going to have success."

From the outset, it was apparent that the Capitals' grinding third and fourth lines were poised for big nights. The best scoring chance early on came when David Steckel sent the puck toward the top of the crease during a cycling effort by the fourth line. Beagle hacked and whacked away, creating chaos in front of New Jersey netminder Martin Brodeur, but neither he nor his teammates could knock it home.

With less than four minutes remaining in the frame though, rookie center Marcus Johansson raced down the left boards, showcasing his speed to retrieve the puck and make a perfect tape-to-tape pass to the front of the net where Gordon waited. Gordon beat Patrick Elias back to the New Jersey goal in order to tap the puck past Brodeur, who finished with 23 saves, to give Washington a 1-0 lead. It was the first NHL goal of Gordon's career.

"It's a weight off my shoulders," Gordon said of the marker. "I came here wanting to contribute and show I could do it up here. I've had a couple opportunities the last few games but finally got a nice one to squeak through on a great pass."

New Jersey tied the game at 1 on a power-play goal by Elias in the second period, but the Capitals' bottom-six forwards kept the pressure up.

On another strong shift by the fourth line in the second period, after Matt Bradley took a big hit to send the puck in deep, Steckel passed to the crease from nearly behind the New Jersey net and this time Beagle didn't miss. His shot beat Brodeur five-hole to let the Capitals reclaim the lead, 2-1, at the midway point of the second period. It was the fourth goal in two games scored by a player recalled from Hershey in December, all of which were the result of driving toward the opposing net and Washington wouldn't look back.

"That's what we do down in Hershey," Beagle said about having a nose for the net. "It's nothing fancy but [scoring is] just something that's going to happen if you keep working hard and that's what we try to bring."

Less than three minutes later, Jason Chimera took his turn. Chimera turned on his blistering speed as he entered the Devils' zone with New Jersey defenseman Mark Fayne draped across his shoulders. Although Fayne was called for a delayed penalty on the play, Chimera didn't need it as he shot over Brodeur's shoulder while being pulled down to make it 3-1. The goal marked the 200th point of Chimera's career, after the left wing had gone 14 games without one.

On another rush up ice, it looked as though Washington would have to be satisfied without a scoring chance as Colin White poke-checked the puck away from Alex Ovechkin streaking down the right wing. Carlson followed up on the play though, stepped up to the loose puck and rifled a shot that beat Brodeur glove side to make it 4-1 before the end of the second period. It was the first time in seven games that the Capitals scored four goals. Mike Knuble added the final tally when he deflected a shot by Tom Poti to make it 5-1 with just under eight minutes remaining in regulation.

"We've been playing good bits and pieces of some games and then [against] Boston and Ottawa pretty much the whole game," Carlson said. "So I think that it carried over and little things finally started going our way."

Capitals note: Matt Bradley will miss two to four weeks with a broken finger.

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