Tabaracci, Caps blank Devils, 4-0

January 10, 1994|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Washington Capitals coach Terry Murray keeps saying if his team plays basic, team-oriented hockey, it can beat anyone in the NHL.

Last night, for the second time in back-to-back games, the Capitals played as if they believe him.

Goalie Rick Tabaracci recorded his fifth career shutout and second in 11 days, beating the streaking New Jersey Devils, 4-0.

The Capitals defense gave up 32 shots, but only a handful were dangerous.

And the major thrust of the offense came from center Michal Pivonka and right wing Peter Bondra, two of the men Washington had determined to be two of their offensive leaders this season.

Pivonka had what may be his best game of the season, with two goals and an assist, and Bondra scored his 13th goal of the season and added an assist.

Dimitri Khristich, Washington's leading goal scorer, assisted on the only other goal of the night, stealing the puck and passing to defenseman Sylvain Cote.

None of it pleased the 12,385 Devils fans at Byrne Meadowlands Arena.

The Capitals have outscored the second-best team in the Eastern Conference -- New Jersey -- and the fifth-best team in the Western Conference -- Chicago -- 8-1 in back-to-back games.

A very nice demonstration of what the Capitals can be when they play consistently at their best.

Tabaracci showed reflexes faster than speeding pucks in the second period and carried a 3-0 lead into the third.

While the Capitals goalie frustrated the Devils, leaving Bill Buerin, John McLean and Bruce Driver shaking their heads, as he snatched puck after puck out of the air, the Capitals were playing soundly in front of him and taking advantage of opportunities.

When the Devils left wing Valeri Zelepukin was given two minutes for hooking Shawn Anderson and the New Jersey bench was called for a two-minute minor moments later, the Capitals had a five-on-three advantage.

Perhaps one of the most promising results of that, was that Pivonka, the Capitals struggling center, was able to redirect an Al Iafrate slap shot for his second goal of the night.

It is Pivonka's first two goal-game this season, though he did have a three point game -- one goal, two assists -- against Ottawa on Dec. 17.

Pivonka nearly had a hat trick two minutes later, but Devils goalie Chris Terreri made a terrific save on Pivonka's point-blank shot and followed that stop with a reflex block on Dave Poulin's follow-up.

Poulin has been within one goal of 200 since Dec. 26.

If the second period belonged to Washington, the first was even more in its control.

The Devils came into this game dreaming of inching within one game of a team-record 14 games above .500. They were at a season-high 12 games over the .500 mark, but the Capitals picked up where they left off Sunday in a 4-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks.

Washington played a controlled defensive game and made the most of its offensive chances.

Bondra and Pivonka teamed to put the Capitals on the board with 5:46 gone in the first period.

Bondra carried the puck toward the slot and dropped it off to the crossing Pivonka, who wristed it past Terreri for the 1-0 lead.

Tabaracci came up with several good saves in the next few minutes. One of New Jersey's best chances came when Stephane Richer skated behind the Washington net and attempted a wrap-around.

Tabaracci covered the puck, and then ducked, as Corey Millen )) swept in with his stick waist high.

Khristich, who leads the Capitals in goal scoring with 20 but who had eight assists going into last night's game, lifted the puck from Devil Scott Stevens' stick and passed to Cote for a 2-0 lead with 6:16 left.

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