Caps cool off Devils in last minute

April 02, 1994|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun Staff Writer

LANDOVER -- Look out, NHL, the Washington Capitals are flexing their muscles, showing their depth.

Last night with a noisy crowd of 16,291 looking on at USAir Arena and the team's two leading goal scorers -- Dimitri Khristich and Mike Ridley -- getting the night off, Washington's $1.8 million man, Kelly Miller worked free inside the left circle with 45.8 seconds left and blasted the Capitals to a 2-1 victory over New Jersey Devils, the hottest team in the league.

It was the seventh time in the team's history that it has gotten the winning goal in the 60th minute of play.

"Beating a good team like New Jersey is tantamount, it's a good barometer, a good measuring stick to see how far we've come and how far we have to go," said coach Jim Schoenfeld. "But it's going to be hard. As difficult as this game was to play and as much effort as it took, if we meet this team in the playoffs, we're going to have to work even harder."

The loss was the second for the Devils in their past 17 games. The Capitals are 4-1-2 in their past seven.

"New Jersey is very good at what they do," said Miller. "They play a very businesslike game. They play very well, three-on-three down low. That's was the surprising thing on my goal. After the whole period of battling out of the corners, I was walking in all alone to the net. It was kind of surprising."

Washington's first goal came 2:13 into the second period, a power-play goal by Pat Peake, with assists from Randy Burridge and Steve Konowalchuk.

New Jersey's only goal was scored by Mike Peluso, with 4:09 to play in the first period, when Caps defenseman Joe Reekie failed to clear a rebound.

The win means Washington is five points ahead of the eighth-place Florida Panthers in the Eastern Division playoff race.

Washington, of course, clinched nothing last night, but it did demonstrate its depth and showed it can play very good defense against a very good team. And goalie Don Beaupre, who made 26 saves, looked solid after not playing against Chicago Thursday.

"I faced a bunch of shots in the first two periods and felt confident going into the third," said Beaupre. "I felt a lot better than I had in those other games, when I was just standing around for two periods, seeing four or five shots and getting sluggish. In this game, my head was clear and my legs felt good.

"I think staying home helped mentally."

The NHL playoffs are 15 days away, and Schoenfeld is determined to get his team there as rested as possible.

It will not be easy. The Capitals will play three games in fewer than four days when they take on Dallas tomorrow at 1 p.m. By the time the Caps get a two-day breather Thursday, they will have played five games in seven days.

But in the midst of this late-season push, Schoenfeld rested his No. 1 goalie, Beaupre, and last season's leading scorer, Peter Bondra, in Thursday's 6-3 victory in Chicago.

And last night, against the Devils, who are two points behind the New York Rangers for most points in the NHL, his two leading goal scorers, Khristich and Ridley, were given the night off. And the Capitals won.

Schoenfeld wrote the following message to his players on the blackboard after the game: "Practice noon. Optional. Please stay away."

New Jersey 1 0 0 -- 1

Washington 0 1 1 -- 2

First period--1, New Jersey, Peluso 4 (Smith, Semak), 15:51. Penalties--Hunter, Was (slashing), :35; Smith, NJ (roughing), 4:08; Johansson, Was (interference), 7:52; Terreri, NJ, served by Holik (interference), 12:59; Carpenter, NJ, double minor (spearing), 19:54.

Second period--2, Washington, Peake 11 (Konowalchuk, Burridge), 2:13 (pp). Penalties--Holik, NJ, major (fighting), 5:25; Reekie, Was, major (fighting), 5:25; MacLean, NJ (hooking), 7:26; Johnson, Was (elbowing), 10:19; Hatcher, Was (high-sticking), 13:00.

Third period--3, Washington, Miller 10, 19:14. Penalty--New Jersey bench, served by Holik (too many men), 9:02.

Shots on goal--New Jersey 12-12-3--27. Washington 14-9-8--31. Power-play opportunities--New Jersey 0 of 4; Washington 1 of 6. Goalies--New Jersey, Terreri, 20-10-4 (31 shots-29 saves). Washington, Beaupre, 23-15-8 (27-26). A--16,291. Referee--Don Koharski. Linesmen--Gord Broseker, Tim Nowak.

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