UNIONDALE, N.Y. — All it took for the Washington Capitals to put together a two-game winning streak was a game against their favorite pigeons.
Kip Miller and Jaromir Jagr scored power-play goals in the first six minutes, and the Caps never looked back en route to a 4-1 victory over the New York Islanders last night at Nassau Coliseum.
The Caps, who hadn’t won two in a row since Games 1 and 2 of April’s Eastern Conference quarterfinals in Tampa Bay, won for the third time in five games to move past Pittsburgh and out of the conference basement at 8-15-1-1. The victory raised Washington’s record to a staggering 24-1-3 against New York over the last seven seasons. The Islanders, who were booed by the home crowd much of the night, lost for the ninth time in 11 games.
“I don’t know if relief’s the right word,” Caps coach Bruce Cassidy said. “It’s more a sense of accomplishment. We’re starting to play a better brand of hockey on the road [4-2 in the last six games with three to go on the road trip], which is good seeing we’re on the road a lot. The Islanders are going through some of the stuff that we have. We said, ‘If we get the first one, maybe they’ll be back on their heels,’ and sure enough, they get a high-stick call, and away we go.”
Washington already had an extra skater thanks to a boarding penalty on New York’s Roman Hamrlik when the Islanders’ Oleg Kvasha was called for high-sticking Dainius Zubrus at 2:56 of the first period. Kvasha was given four minutes in the box, but the Caps needed just 23 seconds to take advantage of the 5-on-3. Jagr took a pass from Robert Lang and fired a shot from the left circle. The puck bounced directly to Miller, who had half the net in which to deposit his second goal and first since Nov.8.
Lang, the NHL’s offensive player of the month in November, extended his scoring tear to 16 games (11 goals, 13 assists), one shy of Hall of Famer Mike Gartner’s team record.
As the second half of Kvasha’s infraction wore on, Peter Bondra’s slap shot from the right point caromed back to Zubrus in the right circle. Zubrus smartly slid the puck across the slot to Jagr, who poked it through goalie Garth Snow’s legs for his 10th goal and a 2-0 edge at 5:59. Jagr has 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) during his 12-game scoring streak, the league’s longest this season other than Lang’s.
“We had a good start, and every time we have a good start and win the first period, we have no problem,” Jagr said.
The power play goals involving Washington’s big guns have become commonplace, but the next score was unusual. At 9:41 of the first, defenseman Joel Kwiatkowski burst into the New York zone with a head of steam and beat the seemingly befuddled Snow with a backhand. The goal was the second of the season and third of Kwiatkowski’s 94-game career. It was just the seventh goal scored this season by a Washington defenseman.
“There’s no question that we’re a better team when we have the lead,” said goalie Olie Kolzig, who made 25 saves in raising his career record against the Islanders to 23-5-2.
Zubrus increased the margin to 4-0 just 61 seconds into the third period. Brendan Witt threw the puck up ice. Zubrus jumped on it in the neutral zone and raced toward the net before beating Snow with a high shot for his ninth goal. Arron Asham answered with a similar score 1:53 later, grabbing a loose puck, deking around Witt and fooling Kolzig.
“It’s something to build on,” Kolzig said of the most modest of winning streaks.
Snow, who surrendered three goals in the first period and three more in just 6:24 of the second period before being pulled from the Islanders’ season-opening 6-1 loss at MCI Center, dropped to 2-7-2 lifetime against the Caps as some of the home crowd chanted for New York general manager Mike Milbury’s departure.