LANDOVER -- Neither Nick Kypreos nor Alan May made it t the National Hockey League on his ability to score goals. But both second-year Washington Capital players showed Friday night that there is more to their games than mixing it up in the corners.
With the Capitals tied at 1-1 against the Winnipeg Jets in the second period, Kypreos and May provided their slow-starting teammates with some unexpected offense. Their goals, coming a little over eight minutes apart, helped Washington to a 3-1 victory before 15,117 at the Capital Centre.
"To get goals from Nick Kypreos and Alan May -- big goals -- you've got to have that during the year when guys who are not goal scorers come up big," said Capitals coach Terry Murray. "We got that tonight (Friday)."
Washington (2-2) also got something else: good defense, especially over the last two periods. After Dave McLlwain had given Winnipeg (1-3-1) a 1-0 lead, the Capitals shut down the Jets behind a solid, if not spectacular, effort by goaltender Mike Liut.
"In the middle of the first period, it was a little scrambly in front of the net," said Liut, who would finish with 27 saves. "But the key for us was that we played much better defense after that, and in the third period, we dominated the game defensively."
The Capitals did a good job at slowing down the aptly named Jets, one of the NHL's fastest teams, after Winnipeg had gone out in front. It was Washington's first victory over the Jets in two years, having lost all three of their meetings last year.
"As the game went on we started to gamble," said Jets coach Bob Murdoch, whose team has now lost three straight and hasn't won since an opening night victory over Toronto. "We gambled a couple of times and lost the gamble on defense and put ourselves in a hole. It wasn't the play in our own end that beat us, it was the play in the other end and in the neutral zone."
One of those gambles turned the game in Washington's favor. It was Kypreos' goal -- on a breakaway no less -- that put the Capitals ahead with 9 minutes, 9 seconds remaining in the second period. After a Winnipeg rush was stopped at the Washington blue line, Kypreos found himself alone with the puck near center-ice.
"Two of their defensemen got pinched, and when I looked up and saw that there was nobody between me and the goaltender, I was pretty surprised," said Kypreos, who deked Stephane Beauregard and tucked the puck between the legs of the prone Jets goalie. "It's good for Alan and me to score. We're starting to get confidence, not just in our ability to check, but to put the puck in the net."
May, who hadn't taken a shot on net in his first two games this season, took a neat feed in front of the net from Dale Hunter on a play set up by John Druce. It was redemption for the 25-year-old wing, who had been demoted to the fourth line before last night's game because of some defensive lapses.
Said May, "It's about time I had a shot on net. We just went hard to the net."
The victory put the Capitals into a good frame of mind going into tonight's game here against the New York Rangers, who beat Washington, 4-2, Wednesday night at Madison Square. It certainly lifted Murray's spirits.
Murray had held two team meetings yesterday to discuss the Capitals' defensive problems. Friday night's performance, which Murray called his team's best all-around effort this season, might have been the jump-start Washington needed.
"We talked about the importance of defense and we got that," Murray said.
Along with goals from a couple of unexpected offensive heroes named Kypreos and May.