BOSTON -- Last weekend, the Washington Capitals were pondering what had gone wrong in back-to-back losses. They had pulled goalie Jim Carey twice. They had curbed the playing time of defenseman Brendan Witt, their highly paid rookie. And their record, once an enviable 4-1, was suddenly 4-3.
But last night Carey and Witt came to play, and their teammates followed suit, overcoming a two-goal deficit for the second time this season -- a feat they had not managed last season -- to defeat the Boston Bruins, 4-2, before 17,137 at the brand-new FleetCenter.
Carey stopped 31 of 33 shots, Witt recorded his first two NHL points, including the game-winning goal, and the Caps played their brand of controlled, dedicated hockey to perfection.
"The players felt those two goals were all they were going to get," said Caps coach Jim Schoenfeld. "And Jim has great poise and great mental toughness. He didn't overcome just getting pulled in two games, it was getting down 2-0 here. But he made all the saves after that, even a couple moving laterally, which is difficult."
Witt scored the go-ahead goal, the first of his pro career, with 3:48 left in the second period, and Steve Konowalchuk, who had missed the previous four games with a separated shoulder, made it 4-2 just 40 seconds into the final period.
The Caps will continue their three-game road trip at Tampa Bay tomorrow, before heading to St. Louis for a game Sunday.
The Caps virtually made the Bruins' Cam Neely, Adam Oates and Ray Bourque disappear. Only Bourque, who assisted on Kyle Mcaren's first-period goal, got on the scoreboard.
"It was a great night -- scoring my first goal and getting an assist and getting a win in their new barn," Witt said. "I decided to just go out and play and don't worry about mistakes. I tried not to just take runs at guys. I tried to just play my position solid."
Last Saturday, Witt sat in a film room, looking at the mistakes that had curbed his playing time. Last night, he seemed to have gotten the hang of it.
"Scoring is good," said Schoenfeld. "But what we're most interested in his defense, and he had a strong game from the blue line back. He corralled his man instead of taking runs at him, and when his man reached the point of no return, he had no choice but to turn back into him."
Witt also worked on his offense. His first point was an assist on Washington's first goal by Keith Jones at 4:28 of the first period, starting the comeback.
His second point came on the game-winner, when he finished a brilliant set-up from Joe Juneau and Jones to give Washington its first lead, 3-2.
"I got a great pass from Joe," Witt said. "He saw the lane and I really couldn't miss. My instinct was to go to the net, but when I scored, I didn't realize what I had done until after the shift. Then I said, 'Hey, that's my first goal!' "
Jones, who is still bothered by a strained stomach muscle, finished with one goal and two assists.
The go-ahead score came after a wonderful series of saves by Carey, who refused to be shaken by two early first-period goals that put his team in a hole.
With 7:18 to play in the second period, he stood his ground, watching Boston left wing Mariusz Czerkawski split defensemen Jim Johnson and Sergei Gonchar and weave out of the reach of Joe Reekie, then stopping the one-on-one wrist shot.
Minutes later, Carey again was called on, and he gloved a shot that came on a four-on-two break.
The Caps began the game as if they were still enjoying their five-day break, facing a two-goal deficit after 3:45 of the first period.
The Bruins' first goal came on a hop, skip and a jump, when McLaren, a rookie defenseman, let go with a long shot from inside the blue line.
It looked to be an easy save for Carey, who saw the shot clearly and had plenty of time to get in position. But just before he was about to lay his hand on the puck, it took a wicked bounce over his left pad and stick into the net with just 27 seconds gone.
Three minutes later, after Kevin Stevens leveled Caps defenseman Calle Johansson to make his pass go awry, Donato and Steve Leach broke fast for the Caps' zone. Donato gave the puck to Leach on a well-executed give-and-go, and then skated just behind Carey, where he took a perfect pass from Leach for an easy back-door put-away.
Jones' goal pulled Washington within 2-1, and Gonchar missed a wide-open Boston net three minutes later.
But the Caps got a break because before Gonchar's shot, Bruins defenseman Alexei Kasatonov was called for holding Juneau.
Washington's special teams tied the game at 2 on the power-play goal by Pat Peake, who deflected in Sylvain Cote's blistering shot from the point.