LANDOVER -- The Colorado Avalanche kept testing the Washington Capitals' will. Their lineup, filled with goal-scorers, spent most of the third period in the Washington zone, putting shots on goal, testing goalie Jim Carey's reflexes and the Capitals' defense.
But in a nerve-jangling game last night, the Capitals were up to the test. They claimed their second win of the season, 3-1, as the sparse crowd, announced at 9,742, cheered.
"The early saves by Jim were probably game-savers," said Caps coach Jim Schoenfeld. "Right away, if they had scored, our whole bench could have been deflated. But from the first shot to the last shot, Jim was sensational."
Carey made 25 saves, including 11 in the final period, as Washington lifted its record to 2-1.
His effort was complemented by a defense that killed seven of eight Colorado power plays and an offense that produced power-play goals by Keith Jones and Pat Peake in the first two periods and an open-net insurance goal by Dale Hunter with 26.8 seconds left in the third.
The Capitals, who are 2-0 at home, will try to keep it rolling tonight, facing the Tampa Bay Lightning at USAir Arena at 7:30. But they will be without Steve Konowalchuk, the left wing on their No. 1 line with Joe Juneau and Jones.
Konowalchuk suffered a separated left shoulder and will be out from two to three weeks.
"The Capitals are a team that likes to frustrate you," said Colorado coach Mark Crawford, whose team's only goal came from Joe Sakic, who entered last night's game tied for the league goal-scoring lead with four.
"They don't send in too many fore-checkers," added Crawford. "They try to bottle you up in the neutral zone. They try to get you to make mistakes. . . . You've got to know that if you are trying for the tie and they're playing that style of game you can't make mistakes, and we made mistakes. But Carey was very good and we just couldn't seem to solve him."
With more than a minute left in the game, Colorado pulled goalie Stephane Fiset, who stopped 15 of the 17 shots he faced, for a sixth attacker, but Washington responded.
Carey, who opened the night by stopping Owen Nolan on a break-away 39 seconds after the faceoff, made one of his best saves with 36 seconds left when he gloved a slap shot by Sakic.
And with 26.8 seconds left, Hunter put the game on ice with a shot from the blue line into the open net.
"The other night in Philly we learned a lesson," said Jones. "Our power play wasn't clicking. So we came in here this morning, sat down and went over it. We worked on our entry and coming in through the neutral zone. I think we were able to set it up better than the other night. We didn't get the puck moving around the box too well in Philly, but tonight we seemed to do it better.
"As for me, it was nice to get on the board. I got a great pass from Juneau once again."
Jones got the puck in the slot and was able to flip it between Fiset's left foot and the post.
For Washington, which had scored on just two of 17 power plays in its first two games, it was a nice moment. It would get even better in the middle period.
With 3:23 gone, Peake picked up a rebound at the side of the Avalanche net, pulled it back into the danger zone and tucked it past the fallen Fiset for the Capitals' second power-play score and a 2-0 lead.
It stayed that way until there was 1:58 left in the period. At that point, the Caps' propensity for putting Colorado on the power play -- six times through two periods -- proved costly.
The Avalanche, currently tied for third in power-play prowess with a 27.3 percent success rate, got its only goal when Sakic's shot hit Carey's stick and bounced into the net.
Opponent: Tampa Bay Lightning
Site: USAir Arena, Landover
Radio: WTEM (570 AM), WWLG (1360 AM)
Outlook: Tampa Bay (2-1) arrived in town yesterday in time to take in Washington's game against Colorado last night. The Lightning is off to a fast start, most recently defeating the Montreal Canadiens, 3-1, on Thursday. Washington will be playing its third game in four nights. The Caps are without LW Craig Berube (broken jaw). Tampa Bay LW Rob Zamuner (sprained knee) is out and D Bill Houlder (groin) is day-to-day.