Capitals defeat Sabres, 3-1, for 2-0 start best in club history


LANDOVER -- Normally, 2-0 starts aren't anything to write home about.

But it has taken the Washington Capitals 18 years to get a 2-0 record, so no one around the team is taking it for granted.

Especially Capitals coach Terry Murray, who watched his team outscore the Buffalo Sabres, 3-1, last night at the Capital Centre before 15,067.

The victory gave Washington a sweep of its season-opening home weekend series against the Philadelphia Flyers and the Sabres.

Murray said: "Our goaltenders are digging down deep, we're getting a lot of goals in the third period and people like Dino Ciccarelli and Dale Hunter have played two excellent games."

Ciccarelli scored what proved to be the game-winner for the second straight night, when he beat two defenders at the left post to score 13 minutes, 40 seconds into the third period.

Ciccarelli's goal gave the Capitals a 2-1 lead 30 seconds after Buffalo (0-2) had tied the game at 1 on a power-play goal by Dale Hawerchuk.

The Capitals padded their advantage with two seconds left in the game on an open-net goal by Michal Pivonka for a 3-1 margin.

Randy Burridge began a three-goal Washington spurt in the third quarter, when he scored on a backhand from the left crease on the rebound of a slap shot by Calle Johansson.

Burridge's power-play goal, his first in a Washington uniform since being traded by the Boston Bruins to the Capitals for Steve Leach last June, came at 2:07 of the third period.

However, the third-quarter spurt by Washington might have been less significant if goaltender Jim Hrivnak had not excelled during the first two periods.

Hrivnak, who spent most of last season with the Baltimore Skipjacks, was little short of sensational at times in the first 40 minutes and he made the absence of No. 1 goaltender Don Beaupre a little less meaningful last night.

Hrivnak made 24 saves, including a spectacular glove save off the pipe midway through the third period and a superb save from point-blank range off a shot by Pierre Turgeon with 42 seconds left in the game when the score was still 2-1.

"The save on the shot at the end was one I remember most," said Hrivnak. "I was lucky to get that one off the pipe. The puck just happened to bounce off my back and came up where I could grab it."

Beaupre walked out of camp Sept. 18 in a contract dispute and is apparently not close to returning.

Hrivnak and Mike Liut have impressive victories in the first two games, living up to Murray's preseason confidence in the two goaltenders.

Murray said: "Jimmy Hrivnak not only made a lot of good saves. He made them under pressure. He knows he has to play better than he did in his last two preseason games. The talent is there for him, and he went out and showed he can play tonight [last night]."

Murray said he told Hrivnak Friday morning before the opening game that he would start in Game 2.

"It wouldn't be fair to start Mike Liut game after game," said Murray. "I'm going to play everybody."

Hrivnak said the start in the second game of the season "helps my confidence."

"I know I have to be consistent if I want to play here," said Hrivnak. "Consistency is my problem. At least that's what I've been told."

Hrivnak said he put the two bad goals he gave up last Saturday night against the Flyers in a preseason game "behind me. You have to if you're going to make it here."

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