Short-handed goals spark Capitals 6-1 victory keeps pace with Rangers


ST. LOUIS -- They may not look forward to playing short-handed, but the Washington Capitals have been acting like it lately.

Mike Ridley and Dimitri Khristich scored first-period short-handed goals, as the Caps defeated the St. Louis Blues, 6-1, last night. Dale Hunter had two goals and an assist, and Dino Ciccarelli and Todd Krygier added third-period goals.

The win allowed the Caps (28-15-3) to keep pace with the New York Rangers atop the Patrick Division with 59 points. The Rangers (29-17-1) defeated the Buffalo Sabres, 6-2, last night.

"It was a much-needed win for the Washington Capitals," Washington coach Terry Murray said. "We needed that after our performance Sunday [a 4-2 loss to Chicago]."

It was the Capitals' 15th victory on the road, tops in the NHL. The Caps are 1-1 on a three-game road trip and will travel to Los Angeles tomorrow.

The Capitals, with a league-high 11 short-handed goals, have scored five of their past 14 goals while a man short.

"It's opportunity meeting preparation," Murray said. "Penalty killing is hard work. For us to score, it's smart and it's hard work. Maybe we're taking advantage of a mishandled situation. Luck's a part of it."

Ridley's goal, his 18th, came at 12 minutes, 14 seconds of the first period after he took a clearing pass from Kevin Hatcher and broke in alone from the red line. St. Louis goalie Curtis Joseph dropped to his knees early, and Ridley lofted the puck over Joseph's right shoulder.

It was Ridley's third short-handed goal of the season and came while Randy Burridge was off for tripping.

Khristich scored his 22nd goal of the year at 19:47 after Dino Ciccarelli had received a double minor for holding and unsportsmanlike conduct at 17:03. The Capitals actually had a brief power play as the Blues' Brett Hull and Lee Norwood took penalties less than 30 seconds into Ciccarelli's penalty but were unable to convert.

Sylvain Cote fed Khristich near the edge of the crease after Ridley had kept the Blues in their zone with some solid forechecking. It was Khristich's first short-handed goal of the year.

St. Louis got several good scoring chances early, as the Capitals struggled to get out of the gate. Brett Hull was stopped on the doorstep by Mike Liut on a rebound just over a minute into the game. Moments later, Hull tipped a pass from Adam Oates into Liut's pads.

Hull then faked Liut out of position but hit the left post seven minutes into the game after deking Calle Johansson at the blue )) line.

"When he comes in he can overpower you, but he can sense panic if you stay back," Liut said of Hull. "He had me beat. I got lucky. When a right-handed shooter gets his arms extended like that, he seems to come around you."

The win was Liut's first since Nov. 22 against Boston. He had been 0-3-2 in his previous six starts but was hot from the outset.

"I though Mike Liut was a big key," Murray said. "He kept us in the game in the early going."

"We knew they were going to come out strong early," said Liut, who played in St. Louis in the late 1970s and early '80s. "The first short-handed goal kind of let us relax a bit."

Ridley's goal came on the Capitals' first shot of the game. After getting nine shots in the first two periods against Chicago Sunday, Washington was outshot, 13-6, in the first period.

Washington.. .. 2.. .. 1.. .. 3.. --.. 6

St. Louis .. .. 1.. .. 0.. .. 0.. --.. 1

First period--1, Washington, Ridley 18 (Hatcher), 12:14 (sh). 2, St. Louis, Brown 8 (Shanahan, Hull), 12:52 (pp). 3, Washington, Khristich 22 (Cote, Ridley), 19:47 (sh). Penalties--Burridge, Was (tripping), 11:45; Druce, Was (interference), 14:09; Butcher, StL (cross-checking), 14:09; Ciccarelli, Was, double minor (holding, unsportsmanlike conduct), 17:03; Hull, StL (holding), 17:31; Norwood, StL (hooking), 17:41.

Second period--4, Washington, Hunter 12 (Burridge, Johansson), 7:31 (pp). Penalties--Hunter, Was (holding), 2:58; P.Cavallini, StL tripping), 7:25; May, Was (roughing), 8:26; Barren, StL (roughing), 8:26; Hunter, Was (holding), 9:49; Johansson, Was, major-game misconduct (high-sticking), 13:34; Hull, StL (roughing), 16:14.

Third period--5, Washington, Ciccarelli 23 (Hunter), 1:59. 6, Washington, Hunter 13 (Ciccarelli), 4:45. 7, Washington, Krygier 9 (Druce, Cote), 13:55 (pp). Penalties--Pivonka, Was, major (fighting), 2:59; Butcher, StL, major (fighting), 2:59; Butcher, StL, major-game misconduct (high-sticking), 19:30.

Shots on goal--Washington 7-9-19--35. St. Louis 13-9-6--28. Power-play opportunities--Washington 2 of 4; St. Louis 1 of 7. Goalies--Washington, Liut, 10-5-2 (28 shots-27 saves). St. Louis, Joseph, 15-11-7 (35-29). A--16,843. Referee--Dan Marouelli. Linesmen--Ron Finn, Bob Hodges.

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