ST. LOUIS, JAN. 15 -- When both of your team's goalies allow a score on the first shot they face, it is usually a bad sign. Yes, both goalies.
On the first anniversary of Terry Murray's hiring as coach of the Washington Capitals, his team played one of its most pitiful games of the season. The St. Louis Blues are one of the NHL's best teams and the Norris Division contenders made the Capitals look like one of the worst, beating them, 7-3, in front of 17,326 at The Arena.
"We've got to get going," Murray said pregame about the Patrick Division race and why he was planning to use Don Beaupre in goal tonight and Thursday in Minnesota. Murray had gone with Beaupre for several games in a row to get the team out of its recent eight-game winless streak. But tonight, the whole team went nowhere fast. Beaupre allowed a goal by Brett Hull on his first shot 31 seconds into the game and was on the bench with nine minutes left in the first period and the Blues ahead, 3-1. Mike Liut came on and fared no better, allowing a goal on his first shot.
"When you're down 2-0 and the goaltender hasn't touched the puck, it makes for a long night," Murray said afterward.
The Blues' victory, their fifth in the last seven games, was tempered by the fact that Hull had to leave the game with sprained left ankle. Late in the second period, Hull went by Capitals defenseman Joel Quenneville, who dove to check Hull. Hull skated to the bench, then the locker room. He took one shift in the third period, but then left for the night.
"Yep, I hope so," Hull said when aske if he would play Thursday. "I went by him, he dove to check me and I turned my ankle."
Hull, who also had three assists, now has 46 goals in 46 games and is attempting to become just the fifth player to get 50 goals in his team's first 50 games.
The Capitals have no such weapon. Their leading goal-scorer, John Druce, got his 18th tonight, but it was too late to matter. After Hull and Kevin Hatcher traded goals, the Blues scored four straight.
The Blues also got two goals from Adam Oates, and one each from Robert Dirk, former Capital Scott Stevens, Jeff Brown and Cliff Ronning. Bob Rouse had the other Capitals goal.
"It's a question of being ready to play," Capitals center Mike Ridley said. "They had a few good chances and it's hard to get anything. There are not many teams in the league, even the best ones, that can come back after spotting them a three-goal lead.
"For us, we're not kidding anybody. We're not a high-scoring team and we have to play defense first. But the main guy you have to stop scores on the first shift. It's not like we didn't know who was doing their scoring."
Beaupre was in goal Friday, when the Capitals beat Calgary, 4-2, in one of the team's best efforts of the season. Liut played in Saturday's 4-1 loss in Montreal.
Who will play Thursday when the Capitals try to end this two-game losing streak against the North Stars is unclear.
"I think I've been fighting the puck for the last week, but I felt pretty good," Beaupre said. "It's one of those nights where not a lot went our way."
On the game's first shift, Hull went down the right wing, past former teammate Mike Lalor.
"I thought he was going to to go high, so I stood up and he put it on the ice," Beaupre said of Hull's goal.
With a nice feed from Dale Hunter, Hatcher scored a power play goal for his career-high 15th of the season and a 1-1 tie with only 2:07 gone in the game.
The Capitals don't win many shootouts, even when they keep scoring -- they are now 1-17 when the opposition scores four or more goals -- but they stopped scoring.
Former Capital Geoff Courtnall intercepted Calle Johansson's clearing pass. A moment later, Beaupre stopped Courtnall's backhand, but the puck bounced in off Oates. Dirk, who hadn't scored this season, put one off a body and past Beaupre for a 3-1 lead with 9:32 left in the first period.
Murray sent in Liut, but Courtnall fed Stevens in the slot and he scored his third of the season on the first shot against Liut. The Blues scored 75 seconds into the second period for a 5-1 lead and the rest was meaningless.
"We came out really well at the start," said Hull, whose team is chasing the Norris Division and overall leader Chicago. "That was probably the best we've played at home all year, except for one game against Chicago."