LANDOVER -- The Washington Capitals are off to their best start in four years and the second-best in their 22-year history, but when it was over and they had a 2-0 shutout against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Capitals acted as though it were just another night.
"That's good," said Caps left wing Kelly Miller, who scored short-handed. "What do we have to do to make it the best?"
With last night's victory, Washington is 3-1. Only the 1991-92 team that began 4-0 was better.
But even that team would have been hard-pressed to match Washington's tenacity on defense. In four games, the Capitals have played three of the NHL's most offensively potent teams: the St. Louis Blues, Philadelphia Flyers and Colorado Avalanche. Against those three, they allowed four goals. Last night against Tampa Bay, which is not as offensively powerful but does have its threats in Petr Klima, Chris Gratton and Shawn Burr, they allowed none.
Jim Carey made 21 saves and the Capitals' defense killed seven power plays and gave up its collective bodies to block much of the Tampa Bay offense. And, after Miller gave the Caps a second-period lead with the 400th point of his career, Keith Jones added insurance with an even-strength goal with 4:49 to go.
It was Carey's fifth career shutout and his first since April 14 against Florida.
"I'll give you something to write about," said Capitals coach Jim Schoenfeld. "Write about Kelly Miller, who has been tremendous over the first four games of this season. He's done everything. Write about Joe Juneau, who has been determined and willing to pay the price. Write about Carey, who has been tested in the third period of each of these games and Jones, who drove to the net all night and was finally rewarded in the end."
And then, said Schoenfeld, returning to form, "It was just another win. We'll try to keep it going."
Playing without its top line of a year ago, as Peter Bondra and Michal Pivonka continue to hold out in contract negotiations, the Caps have produced 10 goals in four games. When Miller scored, he became the seventh Capital to do so this season.
The Capitals announced a crowd of 9,773 at USAir Arena. The team will begin a road trip to Dallas and Colorado on Tuesday.
Going into last night's game, the Capitals had given up just four goals in three games -- none at even strength. And in the second period, it would have been difficult for Tampa Bay to have squeezed one in the penalty-marred middle period that saw little more than five minutes of five-on-five play.
But what did squeeze in was Miller's goal. With 5:48 gone, Caps defenseman Calle Johansson sent an outlet pass toward Miller, but the puck was poked beyond Miller's reach and it was up to rookie Stefan Ustorf to gather it in and feed it back to Miller, who unloaded a blistering shot.
Before the Lightning power play was over, Washington's Ken Klee was called for tripping, giving the Lightning a 5-on-3 advantage for 39 seconds, which the Caps killed. In fact, the Caps have killed 25 of 28 penalties this season.
"We've been doing really well," said Miller, who is one of the major players on the penalty-killing unit. "But even when we do break down, Jim [Carey] has been there to make the save. But it has been amazing. I'm used to seeing Rids[Mike Ridley], Michal Pivonka and Kono [Steve Konowalchuk] with me out there and now I look around and it's a whole new group, a lot of young faces."
NOTE: The Capitals played last night without left wing Konowalchuk, who suffered a separated left shoulder against Colorado on Friday and will be out for from two to three weeks.
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