Goal against the Sabres ends 27-game drought

For weeks nothing on the ice was working. So Capitals forward Jason Chimera tried to come up with some other ways to change his luck.

Should he drive backward down the highway? That just seemed dangerous. He thought about lighting some incense, and as his streak of games without a goal grew, his teammates did exactly that for him. They even stashed a replica of the character Jobu in his locker -- a small religious statue that plays a slump-busting role in the cult movie classic "Major League."

In the end, it's unlikely any superstitions had a hand in Chimera's first goal of the season Sunday night against the Buffalo Sabres. He charged off the bench on a line change, and teammate Troy Brouwer, waiting patiently behind the net, threaded a perfect pass into the slot, and Chimera knocked it home.

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Capitals at Penguins
When » Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.
Where » Consol Energy Center,

Thus ended a career-worst 27-game goal drought -- though coach Adam Oates had said repeatedly in recent days that Chimera was playing the game correctly. His speed and physicality were there, and he had one good chance after another. Oates gave his veteran winger chances to break through.

"It reassures you. You're doing some stuff well, and for whatever reason, it hasn't been for lack of trying," Chimera said. "Hasn't been for a lack of shooting, that's for sure. I was just snakebitten a bit. Maybe that's an understatement. [Oates] comes to you and says, 'You're playing well. It's going to go in. Keep it up.'?"

Indeed, the two met Sunday, and that was the message. The Caps had fun with their teammate, too. Early ribbing dropped off when Chimera's drought worsened. He has a lively sense of humor but also a temper, so no one wanted to pile on. But after Chimera scored, teammate Mike Ribeiro made a show of fishing the puck out of the net as players do when rookies score their first NHL goal.

"A little bit harder at the beginning of the year because [Chimera] had success last year," Oates said. "The game's not that easy. Maybe he thought that it's just gonna continue that way. And we all got off to a lousy start. It was just good to see that he's turned it around. For me, like I said all along, production doesn't matter. He needs to play good hockey, and he's doing that."

Chimera has one goal and eight assists heading into Tuesday's game with the Pittsburgh Penguins. It is another make-or-break week for Washington (12-15-1, 25 points), which is seven points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 20 games remaining.

The Caps also are seven points behind the first-place Carolina Hurricanes (15-11-2, 32 points) in the Southeast Division race. The only positive there? This four-game road trip continues with rare back-to-back contests in Winnipeg (15-12-2, 32 points) on Thursday and Friday. The opportunity to make up ground is there, if dwindling.

Washington has lost to the Penguins twice already this season -- 6-3 on Feb. 3 at Verizon Center and 5-2 on Feb. 7 at Consol Energy Center. Pittsburgh (22-8-0, 44 points) has won nine consecutive games and leads the Eastern Conference.