Bob Carpenter has a big mouth. It is just one of the reasons Carpenter is enjoying a big season, with 35 goals and 24 assists in the Washington Capitals' first 47 games.
Although the noise generated by the sellout crowd of 18,130 might make one wonder how any other sounds could be absorbed at Capital Centre Saturday night, Carpenter made himself heard on at least two occasions, with resulting impact on the scoreboard.
Carpenter produced the first goal of the 7-1 victory over the New York Rangers after Scott Stevens lured three defenders in his direction by faking a shot, then passed to Carpenter, unguarded in the slot.
"When you fake a shot, you can usually get the guy to go down," Stevens said. "After I faked it, I went around him (Reijo Ruotsalainen) and then Bobby yelled. Everybody sucked to my side and Bobby was wide open.
"It helps when guys call your name for a pass. I might not have seen him. When Bobby gets the puck in that situation, he usually scores."
With the clock winding down in the second period and the Capitals enjoying a 5-1 lead, there was reason for the players to relax. Carpenter and Mike Gartner did not let up, however, and Carpenter's second goal of the game with eight seconds left made certain there would be no miracle comeback by the visitors.
Gartner was tied up by Mike Rogers in the right wing circle, but managed to flip a one-hand pass at Carpenter in the slot. The puck struck Carpenter's knee and caromed into the net -- Carpenter following it in and dislodging the cage, thanks to a hook by James Patrick.
"I got the puck off the boards and Bobby went to the open side," Gartner said. "He let me know he was there. I guess you could hear him in the last row. Bobby paid the price to make the goal. He went through the net and through everything."
"I hoped Mike would throw it over there," Carpenter said. "When he knows he's tied up and he hears me yell, the chances are he'll throw it over. With eight seconds left, you can take a chance.
"You've got to let guys know where you are out there. It's a lot easier to see what's going on from the stands than it is on the ice, with guys skating in front of you and trying to pull you down. Mike and I know pretty well where the other guy's going to be, but it doesn't hurt to help out with a yell."
Carpenter has scored four goals in the last three games. Gartner has been hot, too, with goals in each of the last four games, plus four assists over that stretch. Only nine times this season have both Carpenter and Gartner have been held without a goal.
Gartner scored his 29th Saturday on a sensational move. As he was being hooked by Barry Beck, Gartner leaped over Beck's stick, maintained his balance when he landed and put the puck past goalie Glen Hanlon.
There have been other Capitals playing well in recent weeks, as the team has won four straight and 10 of 12. It is 22-4-2 since Nov. 25.
Dave Christian has gotten at least one point in 11 straight games, the longest current active streak in the NHL. Gartner earlier ran up a 17-game string, tying his club record and second this season only to the 25-gamer of Los Angeles' Bernie Nicholls. More modest, but welcome nonetheless after his slow start, is the six-game streak owned by Craig Laughlin, who has three goals and seven assists in that stretch.
Bengt Gustafsson has eight assists in the last six games. Over the last seven games, Scott Stevens has five goals and four assists.
Darren Veitch, with a goal and two assists in the last two games, also had a plus-seven rating to take the team lead at plus-29. Larry Murphy, Veitch's partner, got two goals and an assist in those two games and was plus-four in each.
Combine all that with Rod Langway, Doug Jarvis, Gaetan Duchesne and goaltenders Pat Riggin and Bob Mason continuing their outstanding work on defense, and it is not hard to see why Washington has been the NHL's most successful team over the past eight weeks.
The Capitals, given a rare holiday yesterday, resume practice today for Wednesday's game in Chicago, when they will try to complete a three-game sweep of the season series against the struggling Black Hawks.