LANDOVER -- Kelly Miller scored two goals to power the Washington Capitals to a 5-3 victory over the Quebec Nordiques last night before 15,492 at the Capital Centre.
The victory moved the Capitals back into a fourth-place tie with the idle New Jersey Devils for the final Stanley Cup playoff spot in the Patrick Division. The Capitals are 9-2-4 in their past 15 home games.
Miller had his first two-goal game in six weeks as he scored the tying goal in the second period during a power play and gave Washington an insurance goal at 4 minutes, 19 seconds of the third period. Miller has 21 goals, the first time in his career he has surpassed 20 in a season,
"I've been getting some power-play time, and that has helped," Miller said. "I've been getting my chances, and the puck has been going in. I've been shooting a lot more because I've been thinking offense more. I think that's the main thing the team needs down the stretch -- more offense."
"Miller has really picked it lately," said Capitals coach Terry Murray. "I don't know that he is doing a whole lot of things #F differently, the puck is just starting to drop for him. He's shooting the puck more often."
The Capitals played without one of their offensive spark plugs, Dino Ciccarelli, who pulled a groin muscle in pre-game warm-ups.
"We made it exciting, but it was a win and a must win at that," Murray said. "We have to win every game from here on out. We can't afford to stumble. Quebec has some good hockey players, and they made us work. We gave up the puck in the first period because of our over-aggressiveness. We want people like Al Iafrate and Mikhail Tatarinov to show offense, but they also have to play under control.
"Our defensemen did a good job, but they need better support from our forwards. The first two Quebec scores were on turnovers. We made some adjustments after the first period, and we played the way we are capable of playing."
Quebec, with the least wins (14) in the National Hockey League, did not take its 46th loss easily. Twice the Capitals had to battle back from one-goal deficits.
Kevin Hatcher gave Washington a 1-0 lead with a power play goal at 11:29 of the first period, but the Nordiques rallied on goals by Joe Sakic and Mats Sundin to take a 2-1 lead. Washington outscored Quebec, 3-1, in the second period as Iafrate, Miller and Calle Johansson lighted the lamp. Sakic scored his second goal of the game for the Nordiques.
"We've outshot the other team in almost every game since I've been here," Iafrate said, "but in a lot of games we outshoot them and don't win. It's the quality shots that count, and we buried ours tonight."
Miller's goal gave Washington some breathing room. The Capitals killed off a two-man Quebec advantage for 42 seconds in the final period, and the Nordiques pulled goalie Jacques Cloutier with less than a minute remaining in favor of a sixth attacker but could not score.
"Washington was all over us in our end, and they played a very good hockey game," Sakic said. "They just plain outworked us. We didn't come out and hit the way they did. They finished their checks, and that was the difference."
Mike Ridley and Calle Johansson contributed three assists each, and Michal Pivonka and Dimitri Khristich had two assists each as the Capitals outshot the Nordiques, 46 -17. Ridley now has 38 points in his last 31 games.