Bears/Caps Beat Devils, 5-1

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‘Gordon Celebrates His First NHL Goal’
courtesy of ‘clydeorama’
It took a couple of minor league call-ups to get the Caps out of their scoring funk. Andrew Gordon and Jay Beagle, brought up from the AHL Hershey Bears on December 15, scored the first two goals for the Caps, and Washington went on to beat the New Jersey Devils 5-1 last night at Verizon Center.

There were two desperate teams on the ice to start the game. The Caps came into this game to try to string together a couple of wins and leave the eight-game skid behind them. The Devils needed to make up for the 7-1 loss in Atlanta on Saturday and their awful 1-7 record in December.

The new-found discipline of strong forechecking and playing deep in the offensive zone paid dividends as the Caps had a number of good scoring chances early in the game. Gordon lit the lamp first for the Caps, recording his first NHL goal with a strong push to the net as Marcus Johansson chased down a loose puck and whipped a perfect pass to the crease. Gordon poked the puck past goalie Martin Brodeur to give the Caps the lead. “I came here wanting to contribute and show I could do it up here,” said Gordon. “I’ve had a couple opportunities the last few games but finally got a nice one to squeak through on a great pass.” Gordon went back to the bench and thanked Johansson in his own way.

Early in the second period, the Caps gave up two separate neutral zone penalties, and the Devils made them pay. Patrick Elias took a pass from Jamie Langenbrunner on the power play and blasted a slapshot past Michal Neuvirth from the top of the circle for the lone Devils’ goal. Neuvirth was stellar in stopping 35 shots to earn the win, and good defense foiled any rebounds and second chance shots by New Jersey. The Caps recent focus on neutral zone defense and back-checking prevented odd-man breaks by the Devils.

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‘Neuvirth Breaks Out the Glove Save’
courtesy of ‘clydeorama’

In the middle of the second period, the Johannson line once again provided a spark, taking the play deep into the offensive zone and creating traffic in front of the net. The next shift over the boards, the fourth line of David Steckel, Matt Bradley and Beagle, kept the pressure on. Steckel came out of the corner and brought the puck to the edge of the crease, then slipped it to Beagle for a one-timer past Brodeur to make it 2-1.

Jason Chimera made it a 3-1 game with an amazing individual effort on a partial breakaway. New Jersey defenseman Mark Fayne was all over him, and the referee’s hand went up to call a penalty. But Chimera fought off Fayne with one arm, deftly handling the puck with the other hand, then found a way to release a shot to beat Brodeur high on the glove side even as he was dragged down from behind.

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‘Chimera Scores on Brodeur’
courtesy of ‘clydeorama’

Four minutes later, Alex Ovechkin intercepted a New Jersey pass in his own zone and charged up ice for a 2-on-1 break. When he tried to deke to the middle he lost the puck on a poke check by Devils’ defenseman Colin White. John Carlson, trailing the play, found a wide open look from the top of the circle. Without hesitation, he drilled the puck past Brodeur’s (increasingly suspect) glove to make it 4-1. “I was just about to turn to the bench and get a change,” said Carlson, who was +4 on the night and the #1 star of the game. “Then he poke checked him. I was like ‘Oh, wow, this looks good.'”

While Chimera and Carlson scored the type of spectacular goals that have made the Caps the greatest show on ice over the past three regular seasons, it was the short-range goals of Mathieu Perreault (in Ottawa on Saturday), Gordon, and Beagle that got the Caps out of the winless streak. “I thought [the Bears] played great,” said coach Bruce Boudreau. “They had lots of energy, they followed direction and they played with passion and enthusiasm. When you do that, usually, no matter what league you’re in you’re going to have success.”

Mike Knuble tipped in a Tom Poti wrist shot from the point midway through the third period to finish out the scoring. The Caps closed out the game amid chants of “We want Pittsburgh!” The Penguins will be in town tomorrow night for the first of four games against the Caps this season. Of course, the game we are all waiting for is just 10 days away. Be sure to catch the HBO special tonight for the back story leading up to the Winter Classic.

Will Packard

Will moved to DC 33 years ago to go to college and never left. By day he is the director of finance at an interactive marketing agency near Dupont Circle. When not hanging out at Kettler Iceplex or Verizon Center, he can often be found out rowing on the Potomac River or searching for the perfect burrito.

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