New-look Capitals roll by Bruins, 6-2 Pivonka, Khristich are making difference

LANDOVER — In yesterday's editions, it was reported incorrectly that the Washington Capitals' Bob Carpenter had scored his 600th National Hockey League goal. Carpenter actually reached 600 points for his career.

The Sun regrets the errors.


LANDOVER -- From the beginning, Washington Capitals coach Terry Murray said his team would be better once it got its ailing forwards -- Michal Pivonka and Dimitri Khristich -- back in the lineup.

Perhaps Murray was doing more than simply protecting his players from the criticism a poor start can bring.


Maybe Murray was telling the truth.

Last night the Caps rolled to a 6-2 victory over the Boston Bruins and moved into fourth place in the Patrick Division. It was the first Washington victory at the Cap Centre since Oct. 17 and it was the team's third straight game without a loss since Pivonka and Khristich returned to action.

"Those two guys put a lot of pressure on the opposing defenses and take a lot of pressure off our goal scorers," said Murray. "That makes it easier for some of our guys to do their jobs better."

Last night, the Caps couldn't have done their jobs much better. They took a 3-2 lead into the third period and then blew the game open.

In their best game of the season, the Caps (9-12-2) reminded everyone -- including Murray -- what it was like a year ago when the Caps turned in one of their most impressive regular seasons.

"Our strength last season was that I didn't have to look to just one line for scoring like I've had to do this season," Murray said. "I think we're getting back to that kind of play now."

Goals came off familiar sticks, like Mike Ridley's and some not so familiar ones, like Bob Carpenter's, Pat Elynuik's and Al Iafrate's.

Goalie Jim Hrivnak anchored the net, making 32 saves.


Defenseman Iafrate, who has seemed at times to be sleep-walking, came alive for one goal and three assists while playing what Murray described as his "best game since becoming a member of the Capitals."

Of course, the real test of just how much this team has turned itself around comes tomorrow, when the Patrick Division-leading Pittsburgh Penguins arrive for an 8 p.m. game.

When defenseman Sylvain Cote, who spent most of the night clearing pucks out of the slot, gave the Caps a 4-2 lead with 12:37 left, more than one of the 15,81 fans present had a flashback to last week, when the Caps blew back-to-back two-goal leads in the closing moments in losses to Minnesota and Detroit.

That lead also had Ridley thinking.

"It isn't the third period that's the problem," he said. "It's the two-goal lead -- whenever we get them. We need to keep playing, but when we go up two goals, we tend to sit back on our heels too much."

But this time, after Cote's goal, Ridley made it 5-2 with 11:54 to go and the fans chanted for "Defense."


When Boston's Tim Sweeney and Steve Leach were called for hooking and slashing, respectively, with 10:46 to play, those same fans screamed for offense.

And when Elynuik, he of the "play me or trade me" school last weekend, scored to make it 6-2, the place simply erupted.

"We needed a big win at home," said Murray. "It's been very frustrating, for us and for the fans. We needed a big third period."

As big as the third period was the way the Caps played in the first, killing four Boston power plays.

With Ridley, Kelly Miller, Calle Johansson and Kevin Hatcher anchoring the first line of defense and Dale Hunter, Iafrate, Pivonka, Paul Cavallini and Todd Krygier shifting in and out, the Caps demonstrated why they are the No. 2 penalty-killing unit in the league.

That performance combined with two goals by Carpenter and Iafrate gave Washington a 2-0 lead going into the second period.


Carpenter scored his 600th NHL goal with 4:34 gone when he followed up a slap shot by Hatcher. The performance could have been Carpenter's reaction to having been scratched from Monday's game.

Iafrate made it 2-0 with 8:19 gone, bouncing a shot off the post that trickled into the net.

For the record