EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Washington Capitals were sweating a lot last night, but it was a cold sweat.
The New Jersey Devils ran over them like a Mack Truck.
It goes in the books as New Jersey 6, Washington 4. But, really, it wasn't that competitive.
"We're like a deer caught in the headlights," said Capitals forward Alan May. "We'd score, get back in it and let up just a little and they'd jump all over us."
Washington could neither control the puck nor defend its goal through much of the game at the Meadowlands Arena.
The Capitals are 0-3, having allowed 18 goals. Atlantic Division rival New Jersey is 3-0.
And Washington coach Terry Murray, who had hoped to avoid the slow start the Capitals endured last season, had no good words to say last night.
"The lack of discipline, the lack of showing some respect for each other as teammates, the execution in just some fundamental areas of the game, again are very, very costly," Murray said.
"Until we learn the lesson, especially on the penalty side, on the retaliation and the discipline, it puts too much pressure on everyone and nothing good is going to happen," he said.
It didn't take long for New Jersey to take charge and delight its crowd of 12,365.
About halfway through the first period, the Devils' Scott Stevens pushed Capitals defenseman Craig Berube toward the boards and then unceremoniously tossed him off the ice and onto the Washington bench.
He didn't get a penalty, but the Capitals' Al Iafrate did less than a minute later and New Jersey made the most of it.
When Washington defenseman Kevin Hatcher tried to clear the puck, Stevens picked it off and Corey Millen skated in on Capitals goalie Don Beaupre for the goal.
It was the first of many moments when Beaupre must have felt as if he were the target in a shooting gallery.
"I think everyone has to look at their play right now," said Beaupre. "Individually we have to step it up a notch. But this is not the time to point fingers.
"It's way too early for something like that," he said. "It's just our overall intensity level isn't as high as it needs to be team-wise, and that results in individual mistakes."
The Devils had the Capitals on their knees and sprawling over the ice, trying to make plays.
Twice during the first period, team captain Kevin Hatcher tried to pass the puck across center ice, only to have it picked off.
The second time, it was John MacLean who grabbed the puck at 18:26 and sent it up ice to Bobby Holik, who was ahead of all five Capitals on the breakaway. He skated in for an open shot on Beaupre, who got a piece of it, but not enough to stop it.
That made it 2-0 with 1:34 to play in the first. Claude Lemieux would make it 3-0 with New Jersey's second power-play goal, 47 seconds into the second period, and he'd score his 200th career goal and New Jersey's sixth of the night with 9:40 gone in the third.
Capitals Kelly Miller and Peter Bondra scored in the second period and Pat Elynuik scored on a power play in the third, but, as May said, every time the Capitals scored and took a breath, New Jersey was right back in their face with an answering score from Bernie Nicholls, Millen and Lemieux.
In the first two games, Washington gave up nearly 80 shots on goal. Last night, the Devils had 32, but most of those were at
point-blank range and Washington, which is leading the league in penalty minutes, put the Devils on the power play five times and they scored twice.
Beaupre was pulled for rookie Olie Kolzig at the start of the third period, after allowing five goals on 21 shots.
"When you're on the road, a goalie has to make every huge stop all the time," Murray said. "But our players in front of him didn't do enough to allow him to make those kinds of plays. I wanted to get him out of there so he could start refocusing for the next game."
The next game, tomorrow night in New York against the Rangers, can't come too soon for Washington.