WASHINGTON (AP) _ Washington goalie Matt Yeats doesn't know how many NHL
victories he'll get. But he won't ever forget his first one.
Trent Whitfield had two goals and an assist to help Yeats earn his first NHL
victory, and the Washington Capitals avoided falling into the league's cellar
with a 4-2 win Tuesday night over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Washington called up Yeats on March 19, and he made 27 saves in his third
straight start. The 24-year-old goalie improved to 1-2-0 and made 13 saves in
the third period in another strong effort.
``It's a great feeling,'' Yeats said. ``I counted down the last three
seconds and gave myself a little fist pump. I was cheering inside.''
Washington coach Glen Hanlon is a former NHL goalie who appreciated what
this moment will mean for Yeats.
``It's a reward for a lot of hard work,'' Hanlon said. ``I'm sure there's a
lot of emotions going through him right now. He likely won't have a better day
with the exception of winning the Stanley Cup.''
Washington's Jeff Halpern had a goal and two assists _ tying a career high
with three points _ and Alexander Semin also scored for the Capitals.
Washington snapped a three-game losing streak with the win that gave them 57
``The guys in the locker room obviously want to win,'' Halpern said. ``For
the last two or three weeks, any chance you get to have a win, it gives you two
days when you don't have to think about losing. At this point, sometimes that's
Pittsburgh, which got goals from Dick Tarnstrom and Ric Jackman, has 54
Whitfield never had more than one point or goal in a game during his first
143 NHL contests. But he assisted on Washington's first goal and scored the
Halpern gave Washington a 1-0 lead 3:55 into the game by grabbing a loose
puck behind the net and tucking it into left side as goalie Jean-Sebastien
Aubin appeared to momentarily lose track of it.
Semin made it 2-0 with 48 seconds left in the period. But Pittsburgh bounced
back 35 seconds later when Tarnstrom scored from in front after a slick drop
pass from Aleksey Morozov.
The Capitals retook a two-goal edge when Whitfield re-directed a slap shot
by Brendan Witt past Aubin 25 seconds into the second period.
Whitfield scored his second goal at 4:27 on another assist from Halpern.
Jackman scored Pittsburgh's other goal late in the period.
``They played really well,'' Pittsburgh coach Eddie Olczyk said of
Washington. ``They were competitive and physical. They're not in a whole
different situation than we are.''
The Penguins pressured Yeats in the third period, even getting a rare
five-minute power play when Washington's Darcy Verot was given a major for
elbowing. But Pittsburgh couldn't score with the extra man.