WASHINGTON — If Dale Hunter needs a role model as a new coach trying to make the Capitals play better defense and with more confidence, all he has to do is study Ken Hitchcock and the Blues.
Hunter's NHL coaching debut was spoiled Tuesday night by the NHL's stingiest defense. Hitchcock's Blues limited Alex Ovechkin to one shot on goal Tuesday night in a 2-1 victory.
"We didn't give up anything in two periods," said Hitchcock, who is 8-1-2 since taking over from Davis Payne on Nov. 7. "We're starting to dial in the way we need to play to win hockey games."
T.J. Oshie and Matt D'Agostini scored, and Jaroslav Halak made 18 saves for the Blues, who have allowed only 13 goals in Hitchcock's 11 games.
Sounds like a perfect blueprint for the Capitals, who were in a tailspin when Bruce Boudreau was fired Monday and replaced by former team captain Hunter.
In his debut behind an NHL bench, Hunter got a better defensive effort from the Capitals but not much offensive spark.
"You can't set a time frame to it," Hunter said, "but I want them to get better and better every game. … By watching them live now, we've got some stuff to work on."
Muller's 'Canes fall
RALEIGH, N.C. — The breaks are going Florida's way, and that's why the Panthers are in first place in the Southeast Division. Those things aren't happening for the Hurricanes, and that's why they changed coaches.
Kirk Muller's debut behind the bench ended in defeat when the Panthers beat the Hurricanes 3-1 on a goal by Shawn Matthias with 3:19 left.
Matthias added an empty-netter in the final minute for the Panthers.
"If I'm (a) player with a new coach, I'm going to come out with a ton of jump, and they did," Florida coach Kevin Dineen said. "That one was not our finest effort."
Jeff Skinner scored and Cam Ward stopped 18 shots — and stuffed Jack Skille's penalty shot midway through the third — for division-last Carolina.
Muller's postgame message was positive. "I said to them, 'You guys did your part. You came, played hard,' " Muller said. "It's been probably the way some of the games have been for them this year, and you want to give them hope."
ALL-STAR VOTING: Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel took the overall lead in fan balloting with 258,446, moving past Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson (256,839). The event is Jan. 29 at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa. Kessel leads the league with 16 goals and 31 points. Boston's Tim Thomas led goaltenders with 175,315 votes. Steven Stamkos (69,830) was 19th among forwards, tops among Lightning players. Fan voting for six starters wraps up Jan. 4.
AROUND THE LEAGUE: Injured Penguins defensemen Kris Letang and Zbynek Michalek were to return to Pittsburgh from a road trip to be re-evaluated. Letang broke his nose Saturday in Montreal when he was struck by Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty, who was suspended three games for the hit. Michalek also was hurt against Montreal, leaving with an undisclosed injury. Also, Penguins forward James Neal was fined $2,500 for high sticking Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban in the game.
First Period—1, Washington, Backstrom 8 (Ovechkin, Vokoun), 10:15. 2, St. Louis, Oshie 7 (Steen, Backes), 15:48. Penalties—None.
Second Period—3, St. Louis, D'Agostini 6 (Berglund, Stewart), 8:54. Penalties—Laich, Was (tripping), 3:52; Brouwer, Was, double minor (high-sticking), 4:31; Shattenkirk, StL (hooking), 5:28.
Third Period—None. Penalties—Nichol, StL, major (fighting), 1:59; Hendricks, Was, major (fighting), 1:59; Chimera, Was (tripping), 13:39; Oshie, StL (slashing), 19:40. Shots on Goal—St. Louis 9-11-10—30. Washington 5-6-8—19. Power-play opportunities—St. Louis 0 of 4; Washington 0 of 1. Goalies—St. Louis, Halak 4-7-2 (19 shots-18 saves). Washington, Vokoun 10-6-0 (30-28). A—18,506 (18,398). T—2:15.
First Period—None. Penalties—Santorelli, Fla (holding), 7:14.
Second Period—1, Florida, Fleischmann 11 (Campbell, Weiss), 10:45 (pp). 2, Carolina, Skinner 10 (E.Staal, Ruutu), 11:49. Penalties—Fleischmann, Fla (hooking), 3:41; Matthias, Fla (hooking), 8:13; Dwyer, Car (boarding), 10:32.
Third Period—3, Florida, Matthias 4 (Kopecky), 16:41. 4, Florida, Matthias 5, 19:11 (en). Penalties—Jovanovski, Fla (interference), 1:51; Allen, Car (interference), 8:56; Gudbranson, Fla (holding), 10:04. Missed Penalty Shot—Skille, Fla, 7:51 third. Shots on Goal—Florida 2-12-7—21. Carolina 9-11-7—27. Power-play opportunities—Florida 1 of 2; Carolina 0 of 5. Goalies—Florida, Theodore 10-4-3 (27 shots-26 saves). Carolina, Ward 8-11-3 (20-18). A—13,065 (18,680). T—2:20.
First Period—1, Pittsburgh, Neal 14 (Crosby, Martin), 17:56 (pp). Penalties—Kennedy, Pit (roughing), :16; Avery, NYR (roughing), :16; Kennedy, Pit, major (fighting), 2:21; Avery, NYR, major (fighting), 2:21; Gaborik, NYR (interference), 8:41; Prust, NYR (hooking), 12:59; Vitale, Pit (roughing), 16:36; Eminger, NYR (roughing), 16:36; Lundqvist, NYR, served by Gaborik (roughing), 16:36; Orpik, Pit (cross-checking), 18:38; Richards, NYR (slashing), 18:38.
Second Period—2, N.Y. Rangers, Callahan 9 (Gaborik, Richards), 8:01 (pp). 3, N.Y. Rangers, Mitchell 1 (Hagelin, Boyle), 14:09. 4, N.Y. Rangers, Richards 9 (Fedotenko, Callahan), 15:39. 5, N.Y. Rangers, Gaborik 11 (Del Zotto, Richards), 18:26 (pp). 6, Pittsburgh, Malkin 9 (Neal, Sullivan), 19:53. Penalties—Dupuis, Pit (holding), 6:10; Neal, Pit (tripping), 17:48.
Third Period—7, Pittsburgh, Dupuis 7 (Crosby, Engelland), 3:39. Penalties—McDonagh, NYR (holding stick), 5:34; Malkin, Pit (slashing), 12:41; Engelland, Pit (slashing), 13:19; Orpik, Pit (tripping), 14:49; Kunitz, Pit (boarding), 17:06. Shots on Goal—Pittsburgh 14-10-3—27. N.Y. Rangers 9-15-6—30. Power-play opportunities—Pittsburgh 1 of 4; N.Y. Rangers 2 of 6. Goalies—Pittsburgh, Fleury 13-4-2 (30 shots-26 saves). N.Y. Rangers, Lundqvist 10-4-3 (27-24). A—18,200 (18,200). T—2:27
First Period—1, N.Y. Islanders, Moulson 8 (Streit, Parenteau), 6:47 (pp). Penalties—Szczechura, Buf (high-sticking), 5:39; Mottau, NYI (slashing), 8:52; Martin, NYI, major (fighting), 13:27; Niederreiter, NYI (interference), 13:27; Kassian, Buf, major (fighting), 13:27; Pominville, Buf (holding), 16:17.
Second Period—None. Penalties—Kassian, Buf (interference), 18:21.
Third Period—2, Buffalo, Hecht 2 (Pominville, Vanek), 1:54. 3, N.Y. Islanders, Rolston 3 (Ullstrom, Bailey), 9:23. Penalties—Streit, NYI (hooking), 10:42; Bailey, NYI (kneeing), 11:08. Shots on Goal—N.Y. Islanders 6-12-12—30. Buffalo 8-8-15—31. Power-play opportunities—N.Y. Islanders 1 of 3; Buffalo 0 of 4. Goalies—N.Y. Islanders, Montoya 4-3-1 (31 shots-30 saves). Buffalo, Enroth 8-4-1 (30-28). A—18,690 (18,690). T—2:21.