MIAMI -- After not facing a shot in the second period of last
night's game with the Florida Panthers, it would have been easy for Washington Capitals goalie Don Beaupre to fall asleep in the third period.
"Yeah, it's tough to stay in the game -- you tighten up a little bit," Beaupre said. "But you have to be ready for the next time they come down the ice. You skate around a little bit and keep warm, I guess."
That worked for Beaupre, who stopped 21 of 22 shots to lead the Capitals to a 2-1 victory at Miami Arena. The Capitals got goals from Randy Burridge and Michal Pivonka to take a 2-0 lead, and then the defense and Beaupre withstood a late rally by the expansion Panthers.
"I think that the fact that Don played so well after not facing anything in the second period speaks more of him than that he just gave up one goal," Capitals coach Jim Schoenfeld said. "He showed great mental strength."
Florida's leading scorer, Bob Kudelski, scored his 36th goal with5:00 left in the game, but the Capitals (29-26-6) held Florida (26-24-10) scoreless to move into sole possession of third place in the Atlantic Division.
The two teams had been tied for third at 62 points.
The Capitals continued their inspired play under Schoenfeld. Washington is 9-3-2 since he was hired Jan. 27 and went from hanging on the bubble of the playoff hunt to being right in the thick of it.
The Capitals scored first when Randy Burridge got his 18th goal while Washington was short-handed in the first period.
"That gave us the lead, which is important playing against a team with goaltending and a solid checking system," Schoenfeld said. "If a team like that gets up on you, they can shut you down."
The Panthers created numerous, desperate chances in the final minutes, including several open shots that Beaupre stopped.
Beaupre will be carrying a heavy load in goal because of the recent injury to Rick Tabaracci, who sprained his right knee and will miss about a week. Last night, Beaupre shined.
He is unbeaten in eight of his past nine games, and his most recent loss was against the Panthers on Jan. 19.
The game was the start of a crucial Atlantic home-and-home series for both teams. The Capitals will play host to Florida tomorrow.
Beaupre had started all three of Washington's previous games against the Panthers, going 0-2-1, including a 5-1 loss Jan. 19, the last time the Capitals played at Miami Arena.
Washington dominated the second period defensively, not allowing the Panthers a shot on goal. It was the first time in Florida's short history that the Panthers have not had a shot on goal in a period.
It was also the first time the Capitals had held a team without a shot while on the road. The only other time Washington kept a team without a shot was at the Capital Centre in Landover on Dec. 26, 1975, against Minnesota.
On Florida's only genuine chance the entire period, defenseman Brian Benning slipped through two Capitals defenders, but fanned on the shot. Later, Gord Murphy's shot from the point bounced off Washington's Kelly Miller and out of the zone, typifying the period for Florida.
Washington had eight shots in the second period, but John Vanbiesbrouck stopped them all.
The Capitals, whose season-high seven-game unbeaten streak was ended with a 4-0 loss to the New York Islanders on Monday, scored short-handed at 2:48 of the first period for the 1-0 lead.
About one minute after Washington's Keith Jones was sent to the penalty box for slashing, Burridge picked up Al Iafrate's clearing pass at mid-ice, skated in and flicked a 20-foot wrist shot past Vanbiesbrouck. It was Burridge's 18th goal and Iafrate's 30th assist.