LANDOVER -- In one goal stood Don Beaupre, the 33-year-old former Washington Capital, who the organization said couldn't take the team to the next level, guarding the net for the Ottawa Senators.
In the other net stood the Washington Capitals' present and future, 20-year-old rookie Jim Carey, who has been so hot it's a wonder the ice doesn't melt right out from under him.
Last night, Carey won, 1-0, to claim his third shutout victory of his 11-game NHL career, and his first back-to-back shutouts in the big league. The rookie shut out Hartford, 5-0, Monday.
For Washington, it was the first back-to-back shutout performance since the man at the opposite end of the ice did it for them in 1991, and for a long time last night it looked as if Beaupre might get his second shutout of the season, too.
But after standing up to an avalanche of breakaways, Beaupre finally was broken with 6:59 to play when Peter Bondra took a terrific pass from Michal Pivonka and rushed down the slot to barely guide the puck around Beaupre's left leg for the victory.
"It was not easy, because Donnie knows my stick move," said Bondra, who scored his team-high 15th goal of the season. "Mike made a nice play to me and I made a move that was a little too fast for Donnie to get all the way over. I found the little hole and we got the two points in the standings."
It seemed a sad finish for Beaupre, who made 29 saves. Carey only had to make 13.
"It's disappointing," said Beaupre. "One goal and you lose. I thought we were going to win. I thought we were due to get one, and when it was tied going into the third I thought this was the one we were going to get."
Beaupre said it was a difficult night, "standing in the opposite end of the building I once called my home," and that he was glad he had played a "decent" game.
"My consolation is that at least they scored on a great play. I said when I left that some goalie was going to benefit from the sound defense and the hard work the Capitals do and Carey has been unbelievable," Beaupre said.
The Capitals are 9-1-1 with Carey in the net and will face the equally hot Philadelphia Flyers, who are on an eight-game winning streak, here Saturday at 1:30 p.m..
"Every game is a big game for us," said Carey. "And shutouts are hard to come by. Don played a great game. He was flawless. You can't blame him for a breakaway like that. But these are the games -- the games against the Ottawas -- that we have to win. They count for two points, just like the game against Philly will count for two points Saturday. If we don't win this one, that one wouldn't mean nearly as much.
"The Philly game is going to tell us a lot about where we stand."
The 10,322 fans at USAir Arena enjoyed the two-way duel that produced Washington coach Jim Schoenfeld's 100th NHL coaching victory, and cheered mightily for the Caps to score again into an open net when Beaupre was pulled for the sixth attacker with about a minute left to play.
But there would be no open-net goals and no easy goals.
Going into last night's game, there was no reason to believe there would be. Even though the Capitals dominated play, the Senators (4-19-4) have been trouble for the Capitals ever since they came into existence three years ago and before last night had managed two ties in the two games they had played this season. Why should last night have been different, just because the Capitals were on an 8-1-1 run?
"I felt great when that puck went in the net," said Pivonka. "Donnie played a hell of a game and he played one of his great ones tonight. We've had tough games with them already, because they play four guys in front of the goal. It's the kind of defense that may give you a lot of shots, but not a lot of great chances."
NOTES: Goalie Byron Dafoe was to report today to the Capitals' American Hockey League affiliate, the Portland Pirates. Dafoe has been on suspension since March 10, when he refused to report to the Pirates from the Phoenix Roadrunners of the International Hockey League, where he had been previously assigned. Dafoe has played three games with the Capitals this season, going 1-1-1 with a 3.59 GAA. In Phoenix he was 25-16-6 with two shutouts and a 3.70 GAA.