Washington Capitals Al Jensen and Greg Adams should be grateful for the New Jersey Devils' continued presence in the National Hockey League. Jensen blocked 34 shots and Adams scored two goals tonight as the Capitals defeated the Devils, 6-2.
In 12 career decisions against the New Jersey franchise, Jensen has 11 victories and a tie. In portions of five NHL seasons, Adams has 32 goals, nine against the Devils.
In the aftermath of success, the Capitals did experience a couple of down notes. Center Bob Carpenter was struck in the back of the head just before the first period ended and was taken to a hospital to be checked out. Left wing David Jensen was tripped late in the game and landed heavily on his left knee, the one that needed extensive surgery in March. Neither was believed to be hurt seriously.
"I think Bobby just has a neck strain," said Coach Bryan Murray. "He was hit from behind on the last shift of the first period and we didn't want to take any chances."
"My knee hurt for a while, but it feels all right now," David Jensen said after the game. "It was kind of a leg check and it had me worried. I sure hope it's nothing."
The game itself was atypical of contests between the normally close-checking clubs. Washington had 41 shots on goal, a season high, and the Devils 36. The combined 58 shots after two periods were more than the final figure in any of the last seven games between the teams.
"We were forechecking well and we got a lot of good scoring chances," Al Jensen said. "I think it made them open up a bit."
Adams' two first-period goals put Washington ahead to stay and the Capitals converted three power plays to take the game beyond the Devils' reach. Dave Christian, Scott Stevens and Alan Haworth scored the extra-man goals, with Christian's ninth power-play goal placing him second in the NHL behind the 13 Philadelphia's Tim Kerr has. Mike Gartner was the Capitals' other scorer, getting his 16th on a breakaway.
Adams' first goal came on a two on one with Alan Haworth against defenseman Bob Lorimer. The lone Devil stayed in the middle as Adams came down the left wing and he lined a shot off goalie Alain Chevrier's arm into the net.
"You always think about a pass in that situation, but I had good shooting position and when I saw the man playing the middle, I thought, 'I'll crank this one,' " Adams said.
Less than four minutes later, he scored again, banging his own rebound past Chevrier after Craig Laughlin had first whacks.
"I came out of the corner and I was looking for Scott at the point," Adams said. "I lost him, so I just tried to jam it. Locker and I both went at it and I finally got it underneath his pad."
A similar play put New Jersey on the scoreboard, as John MacLean shoved the puck across the goal line with Al Jensen falling backward into the net early in the second period. But Christian, on a superb setup by Bengt Gustafsson, and Gartner scored 38 seconds apart to permit a lot of breathing room.
New Jersey's Greg Adams scored, for a sort of namesakes' hat trick, before Stevens and Haworth provided the icing.
The Adams-Haworth-Laughlin line had eight points, Laughlin earning three assists and Haworth two. They obviously have regained the touch they had before a groin pull slowed Haworth and helped end his nine-game goal-scoring streak.
"They struggled after the streak was over, but tonight they really played well and had some quality chances," Murray said. "More important, they're taking the body and creating turnovers."
The Capitals felt they had something to prove after Friday's 5-2 Capital Centre loss to the New York Rangers and Adams said, "We all came out hard. We were let down because we didn't play our game last night. A lot of people -- the New York newspapers in particular -- weren't impressed with the way we played and we wanted to show them." Al Jensen received help from both his defensemen and Lady Luck as he extended his personal unbeaten streak to seven games.
With the Devils trailing, 2-0, Tim Higgins sent a shot that struck Jensen's stick, sailed up to hit the crossbar and then fell where Jensen could catch it.
Rod Langway dove to cover a puck lying free between Jensen's legs and Kevin Hatcher blocked an attempted shot by Kirk Muller from just outside the crease with the net empty.
This was Washington's first victory in five visits to Byrne Arena since Feb. 2, 1984, and it evened the Capitals' record against Patrick Division opponents at 5-5.