LANDOVER -- It's anyone's guess what was included in the game plan the Hartford Whalers carried into their meeting with the Washington Capitals last night.
One thing is certain: It had little if anything to do with playing hockey.
Seemingly content to rough it up any time they got the chance, the Whalers fell easy prey to the Caps, 3-0, once Washington decided not to mirror Hartford's ragged play.
It was Keith Jones' kind of game, lots of action in front of the goal, and the hard-working right wing took full advantage by scoring the Caps' first and third goals. He also assisted on the second goal, Mike Eagles following up his failed attempt.
"Although we didn't seem to be as emotionally charged as in our last two games here, our [four power plays] got us through the first period, then we played our game the last 40 minutes," said Caps coach Jim Schoenfeld.
Any notions the Whalers had of making a comeback after falling behind by two goals were thwarted by Caps goalie Jim Carey, who got his second shutout in a week and registered his seventh win in his past eight starts while allowing just two goals per game.
"Jim's been making that first save lately, and that's the one we needed," Schoenfeld said. "Our opponents have not been getting shots at rebounds. The defensemen and forwards have been doing a good job of getting back and clearing the puck away."
Carey said: "I can't remember the last time I had to make a second save."
Despite being provided with four minutes of a regular power play and nearly a minute of a 5-on-3 situation in the first period, the Caps were easily kept off the scoreboard by Whalers goalie Sean Burke.
Hartford soon paid for its propensity for absorbing penalties, however, the Caps taking the lead on Jones' 13th goal, at 6:31 of the middle period, with the Whalers a man short for the fifth time.
About five minutes later and again as a visitor was about to be sent off, the Caps didn't need it, Jones sneaking away with only the goalie to beat. Burke stopped his attempt but Eagles was there to punch in the rebound for his first goal in 28 games.
"Hartford's a team much like us in that they're not overly gifted on offense," said Jones. "Once we got the lead, they pressed, and that opened it up for us. There's no doubt the key to this one was defense and Jim Carey."
Peter Bondra forced the action late, but his shot was stopped by Burke -- only to go to Jones, who sent it home with 1:55 left.
The Caps have won five straight at home, the first time that has happened in three seasons.
NOTES: Washington dressed all eight of its defensemen, allowing it to use Sylvain Cote, Jim Johnson and Ken Klee as wings. The Caps are short of attackers, Kelly Miller sitting out his eighth straight game with a groin pull and Craig Berube on a 10-game suspension. Berube appealed his penalty for leaving the bench to fight Dec. 18, but the league denied it. . . . The Caps finished December with a 7-4-1 mark, and are 7-2-1 in their past 10 games.