CALGARY, ALBERTA (TICKER) —The Washington Capitals’ most important road trip of the season could not have gotten off to a better start.
Washington embarked on its second-longest trip of the season without two members of its top line. Jaromir Jagr missed his fourth straight game with a wrist injury and Kip Miller sat out his seventh straight with a hand injury.
But the Capitals did not miss a beat, using a three-goal flurry in an 8:27 span of the second period to turn a tight game into a one-sided contest.
Zubrus assisted on both of Gonchar’s tallies and also set up Sergei Berezin’s third in as many games since being acquired from Chicago at last week’s trade deadline.
“I think that was a typical Washington Capitals’ game tonight,” Gonchar said. “We were able to score on some opportunities and we kept a lot of the shots to the outside.”
Former Flame Michael Nylander had the other goal for Washington, which ended a six-game winless streak at the Pengrowth Saddledome and improved to 7-1-1-2 in its last 11 overall.
The Caps climbed within a point of first-place Tampa Bay in the Southeast Division.
“It’s an important win for us late in the season,” Gonchar said. “Tampa is playing well right now, so we have to get all the points we can get.”
Red-hot Jarome Iginla scored the lone goal for Calgary. But shortly after his 20th goal in 21 games halved the Flames’ deficit, he was checked head-first into the boards by defenseman Ken Klee and left with a shoulder injury.
“I don’t think it deserves a suspension,” Washington coach Bruce Cassidy said. “The problem with some hits from behind is the guy turns away from the check and it’s worse than it should be. I don’t think that was the case here.”
The Caps also moved a season-high nine games over .500 and within one win of matching their 2001-02 total.
For the third consecutive game, Washington got on the board first.
Gonchar, who is third in scoring among NHL defensemen, opened the scoring at 7:01 of the first period with his 16th goal. After Zubrus’ shot from the slot was kicked out by Roman Turek, Gonchar gathered the rebound and scored from the left side of the net.
The line of Berezin, Zubrus and Robert Lang combined for seven points and teamed up on Washington’s second goal 2:03 into the second. Lang spun in the corner before sending a no-look pass to Berezin, who went unchecked through the slot and caught Turek out of position.
“I think that helps, especially with guys like Jagr and Miller out of the lineup,” Gonchar said of Berezin. “He brings a lot more skill to the forward position.”
After Berezin’s 21st, Turek was pulled by coach Darryl Sutter for Jamie McLennan, who didn’t fare much better. McLennan could not cover a shot by Peter Bondra and Nylander poked in the rebound for his first goal in 15 games. “Goaltending wasn’t the problem tonight,” said Sutter, who went back to Turek. “I hate to pull goaltenders.”
“You can’t blame the goaltending for the loss,” Flames defenseman Bob Boughner added. “I don’t think we had much jump from the start.”
Gonchar capped his third two-goal game of the season and second against Calgary when he converted Lang’s pass and scored from a sharp angle.