DENVER -- It was Capital punishment, Washington style.
In what was billed as a showdown between division leaders, the Washington Capitals buried the Colorado Avalanche 6-1 Tuesday night at the PepsiCenter. Tomas Fleischmann scored two goals and Matt Bradley added a goal and an assist as the NHL and Southeast Division leaders handed the Northwest Division frontrunners a resounding defeat.
While pleased with the easy win, Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau was angry about losing star defenseman Mike Green to a hit from behind by 6-foot-6, 238-pound Avalanche enforcer David Koci at 15:28 of the second period. Green, the NHL's top-scoring defenseman with 32 points, suffered a gash above his left eye that required several stitches when Koci smashed him into the glass behind the Washington net.
"(From) 15 feet, he saw Green's No. 52, and that didn't stop him one iota from hitting him in the back and going for the head," Boudreau said. "So I hope they throw the book at him.
"Let's be honest, if this was (a competitive) game, (Koci) gets on the ice in the first three minutes, he gets into his fight with a guy, and then he sits at the end of the bench, and that's it. So what good is he?"
Green was woozy as he was helped to his skates while teammate John Erskine fought Koci, who was assessed a major penalty for boarding and a game misconduct for the hit.
Aside from the stitches, Green sported a black and blue eye in the locker room after the game.
"I feel fine," he said. "I'm just a little shaken up. You know the difference between not feeling good and just being a little bit woozy."
Asked if he felt Koci's hit was dirty, Green said: "I couldn't really tell. I couldn't see him. He's a big guy and he's got to be more careful about what he's doing."
The Capitals improved to 21-7-6 while rebounding from Saturday's 6-3 loss in Toronto that opened a four-game road trip.
The Avalanche, now 19-11-6, remained two points ahead of second-place Calgary in the Northwest despite the loss because the Flames dropped a 4-3 decision in St. Louis.
"We knew this was a battle for first place in the league," Capitals forward Brooks Laich said. "We knew that they are a very good hockey team and that they were going to work. We had to be prepared to do that as well.
"We wanted to win this one for (goalie) Jose (Theodore). He spent some time here and they let him go. He was fired up for this hockey game, so we wanted to put a good effort in front of him and then he stopped everything that he saw."
Theodore turned aside 27 of 28 shots in his first game in Denver since leaving as a free agent after the 2007-08 season. He lost a bid for his first shutout of the season when T.J. Galiardi scored on a power play with 8:39 remaining in the game.
"A shutout is always good, but the win is the main thing," Theodore said. "We needed a solid game from everybody to bounce back from the loss in Toronto. We played a solid game, played really well.
"It was kind of emotional when I first stepped on the ice. I have so many great memories. My family really liked it here. When we landed (Monday) it was really kind of a little bit of sadness, a funny feeling. Even this morning, seeing some of the other guys skating … I really enjoyed my time here and it was good to come back."
The Capitals made it a most productive homecoming.
Fleischmann opened the scoring 1:56 into the game when he drove to the net to put the rebound of Eric Fehr's shot by Avalanche goalie Craig Anderson, and Washington never let up.
David Steckel skated to the net to knock in the rebound of Bradley's shot at 4:02 of the second period after the Capitals won a battle along the boards. Fleischmann, who has six goals in the past seven games, made it 4-0 at 10:33 off an Avalanche turnover and Bradley banked the puck into the net off Anderson from a sharp angle at 13:22.
Anderson allowed five goals on 21 shots and was replaced by Peter Budaj to begin the third period.
Washington closed out scoring with 2:36 remaining on Nicklas Backstrom's power-play goal.
It was a sobering night for the Avs, one of the NHL's surprise teams this season.
"We got jammed in our end, throwing the puck up the middle, which gave them too many rushes up the middle," captain Adam Foote said. "When you're playing a high-potency offensive team, you have to learn that if you're going to give them something, give them the low percentage, and that is the other side of the ice.
"They are the type of team, if you give them those opportunities, with their talent, they are going to put it in the net."