Capitals nip Devils, 6-5, for 6-1 start


LANDOVER -- Few, including Washington Capitals coach Terry Murray, ever thought a 6-1 record to start the season would b e more than a dream.

After all it took the Capitals 18 seasons to get off to a modest 2-0 start.

"Sure, you dream of something like this," said Murray. "But that's usually just what they are. Dreams."

This time, the dream has come true for Murray and the Capitals.

Washington used a textbook first period for a 3-0 lead, then held off a late rally by the New Jersey Devils for a 6-5 victory last night at the Capital Centre before 16,889.

"That may be one of the best starts [to a game] ever since I've been here," said Murray, who took over the Capitals coaching job Jan. 15, 1990. "We were intense, on top of the puck and everybody was ready to play. We stressed the importance of a good start before the game, and the team responded."

The victory left Washington alone at the top of the Patrick Division with 12 points, ahead of the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, who have nine points.

But it may have been a costly win for Washington, which lost starting goaltender Mike Liut and right wing Alan May to injuries.

Neither Liut nor May will accompany the team to the Meadowlands tonight for a rematch with the Devils tonight. Baltimore Skipjacks goaltender Byron Dafoe has been called up to the Capitals for the New Jersey game.

Liut was knocked unconscious when he hit his head on the crossbar of the goal 3 minutes, 17 seconds into the second period. It looked as if Calle Johansson's elbow drove Liut's head into the crossbar, as Johansson was trying to hold off a New Jersey scoring attempt.

Liut left the game with Washington leading, 4-1, and was replaced by Jim Hrivnak.

Hrivnak played the rest of the game and didn't have the kind of night to write home about.

"Jimmy had a tough game," said Murray. "He wasn't ready to play. He's the kind of player who needs to know ahead of time that he's going to play. This is something he has to learn to do, though."

Murray said of Liut: "Mike was knocked out briefly and was groggy when he got up. We don't want to take any chances with him so we're leaving him home tomorrow night [tonight]."

May injured his left hand during a fight with New Jersey's Randy McKay at 15:34 of the first period. May went to a hospitals for X-rays, which showed no broken bones,.

New Jersey 0 2 3 -- 5

Washington 3 2 1 -- 6

First period--1, Washington, Iafrate 2 (Miller, Ridley), 5:26. 2, Washington, Ridley 3, 10:02 (sh). 3, Washington, Ridley 4 (Hatcher, Krygier), 14:52. Penalties--Krygier, Was (boarding), 9:29; McKay, NJ, major (fighting), 15:34; May, Was, major (fighting), 15:34; Daneyko, NJ (high-sticking), 19:20.

Second period--4, Washington, Burridge 2 (Hunter, Khristich), 1:11 (pp). 5, New Jersey, Lemieux 4 (Stastny), 1:42. 6, Washington, Ciccarelli 3 (Ridley, Pivonka), 8:26 (pp). 7, New Jersey, Brown 1 (Maley), 17:14. Penalties--Iafrate, Was (interference), 4:33; Kasatonov, NJ (cross-checking), 7:19; Boschman, NJ (roughing), 15:28; Lalor, Was (roughing), 15:28; Hatcher, Was (high-sticking), 18:11.

Third period--8, New Jersey, Maley 2 (McKay, Stevens), 6:06. 9, Washington, Johansson 2 (Bondra, Burridge), 11:19. 10, New Jersey, Maley 3 (Chorske), 17:20. 11, New Jersey, Maley 4 (Stevens, McKay), 18:50. Penalties--Todd, NJ (roughing), 2:51; Hunter, Was, double minor (roughing, holding), 2:51; Daneyko, NJ, minor-major (instigator, fighting), 2:51; Kypreos, Was, major (fighting), 2:51; Krygier, Was (unsportsmanlike conduct), 3:07; Driver, NJ (roughing), 6:59; Niedermayer, NJ (elbowing), 13:08.

Shots on goal--New Jersey 6-8-8--22. Washington 9-16-8--33. Power-play opportunities--New Jersey 0 of 4; Washington 2 of 4. Goalies--New Jersey, Terreri, 4-3-0 (33 shots-28 saves). Washington, Liut (7-6), Hrivnak, 2-1-0 (3:17 period, 15-11). A--16,889. Referee--Bill McCreary. Linesmen--Kevin Collins, Leon Stickle.

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