LANDOVER -- Preseason games are for players on the edge, fighting for a spot on the NHL roster, fighting to avoid another trip to the minor leagues.
Last night, defenseman Jason Woolley, battling for a spot as the Capitals sixth defender, and right wing Reggie Savage, trying to avoid another season with the Baltimore Skipjacks, gave coach Terry Murray something to think about during Washington's 6-4 victory over the Boston Bruins.
"We're getting close to cutting into two teams -- the Caps and the Skipjacks," said Murray. "We'll probably do that Monday. But we've got three more preseason games to go before I have to make any final decisions and I don't want to make any until we have too."
Veteran defender Kevin Hatcher produced the hat trick and the Capitals produced five goals on power plays in a game that included 37 penalties.
Woolley gave Washington a 3-2 lead, late in the second period. And it was Savage, scoring his fourth goal of the preseason, who gave the Caps a bit of breathing room a minute later.
The win gives Washington a 4-2 preseason record going into tonight's 7:35 exhibition against the Philadelphia Flyers in Hershey. The Skipjacks and Hershey Bears will play a preliminary match at 4 p.m. Both games are sold out.
"Woolley has played well since he came to us from the [Canadian] Olympic team last year," Murray said. "I think he's a good player and he's handled himself well in a lot of different situations."
As for Savage, Murray said, the more goals he scores, the harder he makes the decision.
"We're getting down to the final cut," said Savage. "It felt good to make something happen out there. My goal tonight, gave us a little breathing room to play with and we needed that, because with all the penalties, it affects our rhythm."
In the first period last night, the Caps demonstrated why they were the NHL's second most productive goal scorers last season, despite being defense oriented. Hatcher accounted for Washington's first two goals on power play opportunities and gave the team a 2-1 lead.
Hatcher's first goal came off a shot from above the left circle thateluded Boston goalkeeper Reggie Lemelin, 3:57 into the game.
Boston right wing Steve Leach was able to counter four minutes later, when he fought off Hatcher's check on the left side of the Caps' goal, skated to the right side and then knocked the puck past Caps keeper Don Beaupre with a shot from the top of the right circle.
It was the only goal Beaupre gave up in the first 20 minutes, as he stopped another shot by Leach and was lucky late in the period when Glen Murray missed an open net.
The game remained tied through several more power plays -- there were a total of 10 in the first 20 minutes. With 6:22 left in the period, Hatcher struck again with a shot from the blue line. The puck sailed through the Bruin defense and over Lemelin's right shoulder into the net.
In the middle period, the players seemed more interested in fighting and roughing than skating.
After Boston's Ted Donato scored to even the game at 2-2, the 8,682 fans here in the Capital Centre groaned. But minutes later, Caps defender Woolley made them cheer and a minute after that, right wing Savage made them scream.
Wooley blasted one in from the left circle on a power play, with 14:15 gone, giving him a goal and two assists on the evening. And then Savage scored from the slot to put the Caps up, 4-2. It was a rude reception for Boston rookie goalkeeper Scott Bailey, who was subbed into the game five minutes earlier for Lemelin.
Early in the period, Boston's Denis Cheruyakov slapped Savage repeatedly in the face near the Bruin goal, without a call. But when the big defender tried to beat on right wing John Druce, the officials stepped in and gave both men two-minute penalties.
Washington's Martin Jiranck scored a power-play goal with 6:46 gone in the third period to make it 6-2