Could Andrew Gordon be any happier? (D.Nichols/Caps News Network)

THE RESULT:  You've got to give Washington Capitals fans one thing: They know who's next on the schedule.

Mid-way through the third period, when this one was well beyond doubt, the chant started.

"WE WANT PITTSBURGH!"

It's certainly premature for the fan base of a team just two games removed from an eight-game losing streak to start taunting their fiercest rival, but there it was.  It was heard by a national television audience on the Versus Network.

And you KNOW they heard it in Western PA.

But the Capitals did exactly what they HAD to do tonight:  dominate a completely inferior opponent on home ice.

After the misery that was going through D.C. in recent days, the win was a hopeful sign to the fan base that their Capitals were back.  You'll have to forgive them for their exuberance.

After the Caps put the finishing touches on their second straight win, a 5-1 drubbing of the New Jersey Devils, the locker room as well seemed to have a different feeling.  Not of relief, per se, but of normalcy.

Washington regains first place in the Southeast Division by one point (20-12-4, 44 points) over Atlanta and remains two points behind Pittsburgh for second place in the conference.

The Caps got great contributions from recent call-ups from AHL Hershey in this one, as Andrew Gordon and Jay Beagle both chipped in with goals, and Jason Chimera broke his long scoreless streak with a goal, his 200th career NHL point.

John Carlson added a goal, assist, and was plus-4 on the night.

To say Gordon was excited about his first NHL goal is an understatement.  After tipping in a perfect crossing pass from the boards by Marcus Johansson, he found his Swedish center back on the bench and gave him a big kiss on the cheek, of course caught by the TV cameras.

“It’s a weight off my shoulders," Gordon said. "I came here wanting to contribute and show I could do it up here. I’ve had a couple opportunities the last few games but finally got a nice one to squeak through on a great pass.”

"The boys have been through quite a bit in the last few weeks and to get a couple wins in a row is always a good feeling.”

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Video D.Nichols/Caps News Network

For his part on the play, Johansson just needed to beat a cheating defenseman to the puck.  “I was just hoping the puck would bounce over the defenseman’s stick at the redline and it did. I looked to the middle and saw Gordon had more speed than his defenseman so I just tried to hit him and it turned out pretty good.”

Pretty good, indeed.

Chimera's milestone came as a relief as well.  "It's nice.  It seems like I was on it for 85 games.  My three-year old made me goals scoring cookies today, so I think they helped out, so I'll give the credit to him."

"It's nice to get back-to-back wins, especially with all the questions about us, whether we're gonna play good or not.  We played pretty solid tonight."

Coach Bruce Boudreau remarked on the play of the recent call-ups after the game.

“I thought they all played great. They had lots of energy, they followed direction and they played with passion and enthusiasm. When you do that, usually, no matter what league you’re in you’re going to have success.”

And does adding a youthful outlook to the locker room alter the mood?  “I think winning rejuvenates guys too. I mean it’s a much happier locker room the last couple of games, so that’s good.”

The Capitals needed this one.  After squeaking out a 3-2 win over Ottawa Saturday night, they needed to come home and take care of business against one of the worst teams in the NHL, something they could not do two weeks ago against Toronto.

But with the Penguins looming Thursday, then again on New Year's Day, this team needs to find a semblance of efficiency and cohesion.

Perhaps the influx of talent from their very well-prepared minor league affiliate was just what the doctor ordered, starting with Carlson and Karl Alzner, then Johansson and Mathieu Perreault, now continuing with Gordon and Beagle.

Can a team whose best players aren't even at their physical prime yet already be ushering in another wave of "young guns"?

THE GOOD:  Going to the bakery.  Four of the Caps five goals were from close in, including Beagle's stuff from a nice Steckel move and pass and Mike Knuble's redirect of an entry feed by Tom Poti.

THE BAD:  Matt Bradley broke a finger and will miss two-to-four weeks.  He will also miss the Winter Classic.  We'll have more on this from practice Wednesday, but it's a huge blow to the soul of this team.

THE UGLY: Mark Fayne.  The New Jersey defenseman was victimized by Johansson on the first goal at center ice, and Chimera skated right past him on his goal.

THE STATS:

1st Period:  16:41 WSH Andrew Gordon (1) Tip-In - Assists: M. Johansson (3) & J. Erskine (5)
2nd Period:  4:56 NJD PPG - Patrik Elias (7) Tip-In - Assists: J. Langenbrunner (9) & T. Zajac (14)
10:00 WSH Jay Beagle (1) Wrist Shot - Assists: D. Steckel (4) & M. Bradley (6)
12:39 WSH Jason Chimera (5) Wrist Shot - Assists: A. Gordon (1) & J. Carlson (13)
16:31 WSH John Carlson (4) Slap Shot - Assists: A. Ovechkin (27)
3rd Period: 12:01 WSH Mike Knuble (7) Tip-In - Assists: T. Poti (5) & B. Laich (14)

NEXT GAME:  Thursday night at 7:00 pm against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Verizon Center.

CAPS NEWS NETWORK THREE STARS

3. Michael Neuvirth.  35 saves on 36 shots.  Kicked pucks to the corners all night long.
2. Andrew Gordon.  First NHL goal and assist.  And the kiss that sealed the deal.
1. John Carlson.  Goal.  Assist.  Plus-4. He's growing up right before our eyes.

PHOTOS (all photos C. Nichols/Caps News Network)





1 comments

  1. Anonymous // December 23, 2010 at 6:39 AM  

    I love reading about other team's players in front of "UGLY" word)))
    Hope it will be the same tomorrow.