WASHINGTON -- Mathieu Perreault, Andrew Gordon and Jay Beagle were the last three players cut by the Washington Capitals at the end of training camp. All three have played a vital part in rescuing the club from its worst slump since Bruce Boudreau became coach three years ago.
Two days after Perreault ignited a comeback that snapped an eight-game losing streak with a pair of goals, Gordon and Beagle each scored Tuesday night in a convincing 5-1 victory against the New Jersey Devils at Verizon Center. It was Washington's second straight victory as the Capitals try to put an eight-game slide behind them and ready for rival Pittsburgh's first visit of the season on Thursday night.
"I thought they all played great," Boudreau said of his recent additions from the AHL Hershey Bears. "They had lots of energy, they follow 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."
It was the second straight embarrassing defeat for the Devils, who lost 7-1 to the Atlanta Thrashers three days prior. New Jersey has lost eight of its last night games -- and nine in a row away from Prudential Center. With 20 points, they are 29th in the overall standings.
"I don't think we really have an answer right now," captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. "We shouldn't be making the same mistakes over and over again ad get beat the same way."
Beagle and Gordon were recalled from Hershey on Dec. 15 after illness and injuries left the Capitals shorthanded at forward. They have been rooming together across the street from the team's practice facility in Arlington, Va., and scored Washington's first two goals in this rout.
Gordon's goal, the only one in the first period, put Washington in front. Marcus Johansson slipped past Mark Fayne near the Devils' blue line and raced toward the corner to retrieve the puck. When he got there, he snapped it toward the crease and found Gordon racing towards the far post for a redirection past Martin Brodeur at 16:41.
It was Gordon's first career NHL goal. A seventh-round pick, Gordon became the sixth member of Washington's 2004 draft class to score a goal for the organization, joining Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green, Jeff Schultz, Chris Bourque and Sami Lepisto.
"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."
After the Devils tied the game on Patrik Elias' power-play goal early in the second period, Beagle beat Brodeur at the 10-minute mark to put the Caps ahead to stay. David Steckel's shot attempt rolled off his stick but to a fortuitous spot on the ice near Beagle's stick. It was his first tally of the season and second NHL goal.
"We were talking before the game just about playing our game and goals were on our mind obviously," Beagle said. "When you get called up you want to contribute to the team. Today just sitting in the room after the afternoon nap we were saying good things will happen if we work hard. That they did."
Those two weren't the only young Capitals who took leading roles on this night. Goaltender Michal Neuvirth, making his third consecutive start, stopped 35 shots for his 14th victory of the season.
Rookie defenseman John Carlson had a goal, an assist and was plus-4 in nearly 24 minutes of ice time. Johansson set up Gordon's goal and was a dynamic player both at even strength and on the penalty kill for the Capitals.
"It is good to have all the guys contribute," Johansson said. "You can't expect [the star players] to do it every day. It's good to have other guys step in and contribute a lot. It was a good game for us, I think."
Jason Chimera made it a two-goal advantage for the Capitals at 12:39 of the second. He slipped behind the defense and chipped a shot over Brodeur's shoulder despite being harassed and eventually taken to the ice. It was Chimera's fifth goal of the season and 200th point of his career - he had been stuck on 199 for 14 games.
Carlson was on the ice for all of Washington's goals and assisted on Chimera's before scoring himself at 16:31. Colin White made a nice play to poke the puck away from Ovechkin as he tried to slip by near the top of the right circle, but all that did was leave what turned into a perfect drop pass for the oncoming Carlson, who blistered one into the top right corner for his fourth of the season.
Mike Knuble added his seventh of the season - and fourth in the past 10 games - at the end of a pretty passing play in the third period. Brooks Laich sent the puck across the ice to Tom Poti near the right point, and the left-handed defenseman put the puck off Knuble's stick at the top of the crease and in at 12:01.
While the Caps are putting the wheels back on after their slide, the Devils have run off the road and can't find their way back. They remained 18 points behind eighth-place Boston, and their hopes of extending a 13-year playoff run grow dimmer by the day.
"It's not getting better," coach John MacLean said. "It's frustrating. We had some opportunities. We did work hard but we made some mistakes against a team that capitalizes on mistakes."