PITTSBURGH, DEC. 5 -- It was just one of a couple of dozen saves, but when a goalie makes a big (bordering on monumental) one at the start of a game, as Don Beaupre did tonight, it sparks the whole team.

"No question," said Washington Capitals Coach Terry Murray. "The bench comes alive."

Alive and kicking were the Capitals tonight. Buttressed by Beaupre and given a boost by Michal Pivonka, the Capitals defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins, 3-1, before 15,383 at Civic Arena.

Beaupre was sensational as he and the Capitals (16-14) won their second game in a row, third straight on the road and sixth in their last eight overall.

Pivonka scored the Capitals' first goal and set up Kevin Hatcher for the game-winner. Kelly Miller scored a third-period shorthanded goal to ensure the Penguins' fifth defeat in their last six home games.

"We should have saved some of the goals we got against the Rangers," said Pittsburgh Coach Bob Johnson, whose team blitzed the Patrick Division-leading Rangers, 9-4, on Monday. Tonight, the Penguins could only muster Randy Gilhen's first-period goal.

Phil Bourque is not one of the several Penguins among the top 15 scorers in the NHL, but he did have a hat trick in Monday's victory. However, Beaupre rejected him two minutes into the game with a sliding save, and the tone was set.

"I try to play with a lot of energy and that gives the team confidence," said Beaupre, who raised his record to 4-4 and dropped his goals-against average to 1.84. "Any goalie tries to do that. Making that first big save gives me confidence and, if I have confidence, it gives the rest of the guys confidence."

The Penguins probably couldn't have said the same about their goalie, Wendel Young, since he was making only his second start. But then the Penguins didn't give him much cushion.

"When it was all over, their defense was better than our offense," said Johnson, who team was zero for five on the power play.

The Capitals played without Dino Ciccarelli, whose injury sabbatical continued for a 21st game. Murray decided during this morning's pregame skate that he wanted to give Ciccarelli another couple of days to catch up on his conditioning.

"I just want to get him a little closer to 100 percent," Murray said. "It's just a feeling, watching how he's looked in practice, executed the drills and the smoothness in doing them. It comes down to knowing him from the past and comparing that with how he is today."

Ciccarelli, who has been out since Oct. 20 because of a fractured thumb, had said Tuesday he was ready to go, and this morning seemed mildly surprised he wasn't included in the lineup.

"I'll play Friday for sure," Ciccarelli said, referring to the Capitals' game against New Jersey at Capital Centre. "I feel like I could play, but {Murray} wanted to wait another day."

Pivonka is one of the Capitals who has picked up the scoring slack in the absence of Ciccarelli. Pivonka has 16 points in the last nine games, and his linemate, Peter Bondra, today was named rookie of the month for November.

With just 4:36 gone in the game, Pivonka blasted a slap shot past Young from the blue line for his 10th goal. So, despite having had the better chance early, the Penguins were down by 1-0.

It was 2-0 when Hatcher cut across the slot and one-timed Pivonka's pass for his 11th goal on a power play.

"It's a matter of good passing, being under control and shooting the puck at the net," Hatcher said in way of explanation on why the Capitals' power play is ranked No. 1.

Still in the first period, Beaupre made a kick save on a shot by Mark Recchi and a pad save on Gilhen's first rebound shot. But he couldn't couldn't pull off the trifecta as Gilhen put in his own rebound, cutting the deficit to 2-1 with 8:47 left in the first period.

Beaupre stopped a Bourque breakaway in the second period.

"If he scores there, it's a different game," Hatcher said.

Eleven days ago, the Capitals blew a 2-1 third-period lead here and lost in overtime. This time, it was different. Miller -- who had just left the penalty box after a rare fight with Paul Coffey -- scored on a slap shot that deflected off John Cullen's stick.

"They are so explosive, you've got to keep scoring," Miller said. "It was nice to get a little more comfort."

Capitals Notes:

Right wing Alan May injured his left shoulder during a fight with Jay Caufield. "The big dummy fell on me," May said. "I think it's just a bruise and will be all right, in my professional opinion."