LANDOVER -- The Washington Capitals' dominance of the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins continued last night.
Led by Dale Hunter, who scored two goals and had an assist, the Capitals defeated the Penguins for the fifth time in six games this season, 5-3, before 16,712 at the Capital Centre.
The victory was the fourth in a row for Washington, the sixth in a row at home. The Capitals have lost once in their past 10 games.
Dimitri Khristich had a goal and an assist for the Capitals, and Randy Burridge and Mike Ridley scored the other goals. Bob Errey, Larry Murphy and Mario Lemieux scored for Pittsburgh.
"We're playing well right now," said Hunter. "If one line doesn't do the job, then another one does. We're playing like we did early in the season.
"On my first goal, I was driving hard to the net and Al [Iafrate] gave me a perfect pass and I just tapped it in. On the second, I figured I had [goalie Ken] Wregget beat for an easy tap-in for Dino [Ciccarelli]. I tried to get the puck to Dino, but I got a little help from a Pittsburgh defenseman who kicked the puck in."
Coach Terry Murray said: "Hunter's goal was a key one. It was a grinding goal, and we got a couple of them. When the rest of the team sees a couple of guys like Hunter and Iafrate charging the goal, it sends a message and gets everyone involved."
Murray cited the play of goalie Don Beaupre, who made 24 saves and won his 23rd game.
"Beaupre played a tremendous game for us," Murray said. "We didn't have much offense in the early part of the game, and Beaupre kept us in the game until we got rolling. He made several very big saves early. Then we got a couple of breaks, and our offense got into gear. But you always have to be wary of a team with the offensive firepower of Pittsburgh. They can come back very quickly. However, our defense and Beaupre did the job for us."
The Penguins, 0-6-1 in their past seven road games and 5-12-4 in their past 21 overall, are in danger of not making the playoffs. They are in fourth place in the Patrick Division, three points ahead of the New York Islanders and seven in front of the last-place Philadelphia Flyers.
"We have not been winning lately despite giving up very few goals," said Pittsburgh coach Scotty Bowman. "It seems like we get penalties at the wrong times. The Capitals were the white knights tonight. They don't get penalties [referee Kerry Fraser gave Washington four power-play opportunities and three to Pittsburgh], even though all Kelly Miller did all night was grab and hold and slash. We never get a break."
The Penguins' Errey said: "We have to get that winning feeling again. We must put a couple of wins together. We have the guys to do the job, but we can't look behind. We have to look ahead."
Errey gave Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead, storming down the left boards, cutting across the slot and beating Beaupre from just off the crease with a back-handed shot at 1:19.
Washington, which had its problems getting started, did not get a shot on goal for the first 13 minutes of the game, and then scored on its second shot on goal to tie the game at 1-1.
Wregget attempted to play the puck behind his goal, failed to control it and Burridge took it away. Burridge came from behind the goal and put the puck into the unguarded right side of the net at 14:15, as Wregget was late in getting back to his crease.
Hunter gave the Capitals a 2-1 lead at 5:08 of the second period, when he scored on a cross-slot pass from Iafrate. Pittsburgh retied the game 24 seconds later, when former Capital Murphy, left unguarded in the right circle, beat Beaupre with a rising shot into the upper right corner.
Hunter gave Washington a 3-2 lead at 12:01 when he scored his 21st goal of the season (14 Capitals have scored 10 goals or more for the first time in team history). Hunter attempted to center the puck to Ciccarelli, who was on the right side of the crease. However, Hunter's pass caromed off the skate of Penguins defenseman Kjell Samuelsson and into the net behind Wregget.
NOTES: The Capitals have 18 games remaining in the regular season, 12 of which will be at the Capital Centre. Eight of the remaining games will be against Patrick Division opponents and four will be at home.
Pittsburgh 1 1 1 -- 3
Washington 1 2 2 -- 5
First period -- 1, Pittsburgh, Errey 13 (Murphy, Roberts), 1:19. 2, Washington, Burridge 21 (Lalor, Ciccarelli), 14:15. Penalties--Ciccarelli, Was (hooking), 1:59; Murphy, Pit (hook), 18:53.
Second period -- 3, Washington, Hunter 19 (Iafrate, Miller), 5:08. 4, Pittsburgh, Murphy 15 (Stevens, Lemieux), 5:32. 5, Washington, Hunter 20 (Khristich, Cote), 12:01. Penalties--Tocchet, Pit (unsportsmanlike conduct), 5:32; Hunter, Was (unsportsmanlike conduct), 5:32; Washington bench, served by Ciccarelli (too many men), 8:14; Stevens, Pit (cross-checking), 18:38.
Third period -- 6, Washington, Kristich 26 (Ciccarelli, Hunter), :51. 7, Pittsburgh, Lemieux 30 (Stevens, Mullen), 10:20 (pp). 8, Washington, Ridley 23 (Miller, Pivonka), 19:34 (pp-en). Penalties--Tocchet, Pit (tripping), 1:34; Trottier, Pit, misconduct, 4:07; Bourque, Pit (high-sticking), 5:26; Pivonka, Was (high-sticking), 5:26; Miller, Was (holding), 10:04; Murphy, Pit (roughing), 11:31; Iafrate, Was (roughing), 11:31; Pittsburgh bench, served by Hrdina (too many men), 18:01.
Shots on goal -- Pittsburgh 9-11-7--27. Washington 5-11-11--27.
Power-play opportunities--Pittsburgh 1 of 3; Washington 1 of 4.
Goalies -- Pittsburgh, Wregget, 9-9-3 (26 shots-22 saves); Beaupre, 23-12-3 (27-24).
A -- 16,712.
Referee -- Kerry Fraser. Linesmen--Kevin Collins, Ray Scpainello.