Teams that win the Stanley Cup almost always rank near the top of the league in power-play goals and penalties killed. So far this season, the Washington Capitals rank ninth in penalties killed and, thanks to a power-play goal in their 4-2 win over the New Jersey Devils Saturday night, moved from 22nd to 13th in the league with the man advantage.
Not exactly Stanley Cup numbers, but better than earlier in the season.
Coming into the New Jersey game, the Capitals were wheezing from 0-for-13 and 1-for-18 power-play slumps. That changed in the first period when Adam Oates took a rebound from the end boards and flipped the puck over Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, who was down and out after trying to block a shot from the point by Calle Johansson.
Capitals Coach Ron Wilson said defensemen Johansson and Dmitri Mironov were playing aggressively on the point, firing the puck hard and setting up chances near the goal.
"They were pounding it from the point, making good, hard hits and following it up," Wilson said. "Instead of dilly-dallying on the power play, we got back to basics with some people out."
Wilson was referring to defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who normally plays the point on power plays but missed the game with minor injuries. Johansson and Mironov picked up the slack.
"Eventually you get scoring chances if you shoot the puck a lot . . . it creates a lot of things in front of the net," Johansson said.
Capitals Notes: Center Jan Bulis missed Saturday's game but practiced yesterday and is expected to be ready to play against Dallas Wednesday. Defensemen Gonchar and Alexei Tezikov are having muscle spasms and are listed as day-to-day; Wilson said he expects Gonchar to be ready Wednesday. Defenseman Joe Reekie was back on the ice yesterday after recovering from a bruised foot. Replacement Jamie Huscroft is questionable with muscle strains.