LANDOVER -- The fast-starting Washington Capitals passed another test with ease last night.
"We all thought this would be our first big test of the year," Capitals goaltender Mike Liut said of the New York Rangers, who came to the Capital Centre with a three-game winning streak and 3-1 record.
But Washington scored three goals within 3 minutes, 21 seconds during the first period and coasted to a 5-1 victory over its Patrick Division rivals.
The Capitals, off to a 4-0 start, their best in the 18-year history of the franchise, were so impressive last night that coach Terry Murray said it was impossible for him to single out any players.
"I'm not going to name names," said Murray. "Everyone played well. We had a lot of jump, enthusiasm. Everyone was executing, and we looked good on our power play."
It would have been easy for Murray to go overboard last night in excitement over the 4-0 start, but he restrained himself.
He didn't want to give ammunition to the Chicago Blackhawks, already in town for tonight's game against the Capitals at the Capital Centre.
Blackhawks players were in the stands last night and are likely to be reading the newspapers today.
So Murray said very little when asked what the 4-0 start meant to a franchise that never had started a season 2-0.
"I'm not sure what it means," said Murray. "Obviously it's better than 2-2. When I look back to last year, it seemed like I was always saying after games, "We shot ourselves in the foot.' "
Washington started the first-period surge when left wing Todd Krygier scored on a rebound of a Michal Pivonka shot at 12:54 of the period.
Krygier was playing his first game for the Capitals after coming to Washington from the Hartford Whalers in an Oct. 3 trade.
Krygier scored on his first shot for the Capitals.
"It was more like a deke than a shot," said Krygier. "The puck was just laying there, and I put it in the net."
Murray said: "That's what speed will do for you. Todd has that speed, and he was able to get to the puck."
New York dominated the first 10 minutes of the game, but Liut (26 saves) held off the Rangers on two power plays to keep the visitors off the scoreboard.
The Rangers outshot the Capitals, 9-1, in the first 10 minutes, but, suddenly, Washington took control of the game.
The Capitals pelted the net with shots at 10:32 of the first period when Sylvain Cote bounced a shot high off the pipe.
Washington went on to take 10 straight shots to close out the first period, an assault that resulted in three goals in a 3:21 stretch for a 3-0 lead at the end of the first period.
N.Y. Rangers 0 1 0 -- 1
Washington 3 2 0 -- 5
First period--1, Washington, Krygier 1 (Pivonka, Bondra), 12:54. 2, Washington, Khristich 2 (Hatcher, Burridge), 15:31. 3, Washington, Ridley 1 (Bergland, Miller), 17:15. Penalties--King, NY, major (fighting), 1:25; May, Was, minor-major (instigator, fighting), 1:25; Iafrate, Was (unsportsmanlike conduct), 7:23; Patrick, NY (holding), 8:19; Ogrodnick, NY (interference), 13:29; Krygier, Was (tripping), 16:36; Graves, NY (slashing), 19:32; King, NY (roughing), 19:32; Kypreos, Was (roughing), 19:32.
Second period--4, Washington, Hunter 1 (Burridge, Johansson), 1:02 (pp). 5, New York, Turcotte 1 (Messier, Leetch), 3:39 (pp). 6, Washington, Pivonka 3 (Iafrate, Ciccarelli), 5:46 (pp). Penalties--Washington bench, served by Ciccarelli (too many men), 2:19; Rochefort, NY (holding), 4:42; Domi, NY, major (fighting), 6:51; May, Was, major (fighting), 6:51; Shaw, NY (cross-checking), 10:34; Amonte, NY (interference), 13:01; Khristich, Was (tripping), 15:15.
Third period--None. Penalties--King, NY (elbowing), 3:25; Domi, NY, misconduct, 10:28; King, NY (cross-checking), 11:17; May, Was, minor-misconduct (slashing), 11:17; Bondra, Was (tripping), 12:15; Moller, NY, major (fighting), 19:36; May, Was, major (fighting), 19:36.
Shots on goal--New York 9-9-9--27. Washington 12-12-8--32. Power-play opportunities--New York 1 of 6; Washington 2 of 7. Goalies--New York, Richter 0-1-0 (32 shots-27 saves). Washington, Liut 3-0-0 (27-26). A--15,723. Referee--Terry Gregson. Linesmen--Ron Asselstine, Gord Broseker.
Opponent: Chicago Blackhawks
Site: Capital Centre, 7:35
Radio: WCAO (600 AM), WMAL (630 AM)
Outlook: The Capitals are playing their fourth game at home in 5 starts this season. Washington is off to a fast start behind some well-balanced scoring and the goaltending of Mike Liut and Jim Hrivnak, who have shared the goaltending since Don Beaupre walked out of camp Sept. 18. The Blackhawks have struggled, scoring only 7 goals in their first 3 games. In contrast, the Capitals have scored 18 goals in their first 4 games. The Blackhawks swept the season series, 3-0-0, last season.