The Vancouver Canucks fired six shots at Rollie Boutin in the first five minutes last night. They tested him 14 times in the third period for a total of 29. Only one got past the Washington Capitals' rookie goalie, however, and he could revel in chants of "Rol-lie, Rol-lie" as the Capitals posted a 2-1 victory.
It was the first time this season that Washington had been able to win a game by scoring fewer than five goals and Boutin was rewarded with the starting assignment for tonight's game against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.
"He's played two games and he's won two games, what more can you say?" asked Washington Coach Gary Green. "He played a big game and he has to get his strength back, but after that effort we've got to go with him again.
"They came out right off the bat with three guys in. That's unheard of, but it was good strategy by Harry Neale. They put the pressure on us. Rollie made the big saves and got the momentum for us. If they'd scored quickly, it could have been a different story."
Washington's power play, 20th in a 21-team league entering the game, produced both goals. Tom Rowe connected with 1:33 left in the first period to become the Capitals' first 10-goal scorer of the season and Ryan Walter made it 2-0 with 12:03 remaining in the game.
Victories for the Capitals do not come easy, however, and the 6,742 fans were forced to sweat along with their heroes before Washington's seventh success in 33 games was final.
Rick Blight cut behind the Washington defense, took Don Lever's pass and, with 8:22 on the clock, lifted a shot just under the crossbar to end Boutin's hopes of a shutout. There was enough time to ruin more than that.
With two minutes left, Boutin made a superb save on a tough backhander by Bill Derlago. Than, after the Canucks had lifted goalie Glen Hanlon for a sixth skater, Boutin foiled tough medium-range drives by Dennis Kearns and Bob Manno.
The save on Manno came with seven seconds remaining and the "Rol-lie" chants never ceased from that point through the Canucks' subsequent timeout to the game-ending buzzer.
"That really makes me feel good, so long as it keeps going," said Boutin, who celebrated his 22nd birthday in November. "I felt a little more relaxed tonight. I felt better handling the puck and I took a little more time playing it."
The early blitz did not upset him, either. Like most goaltenders, Boutin likes to get in the game right away.
"It's good getting shots at the start of the game," he said. "You get your confidence right away. Of course, if they put one in it can work in the opposite way."
This was only the fourth NHL appearance for Boutin, the second this season. He was a 5-4 winner over the New York Rangers a week ago and, if he keeps it up, might even be promoted to the goalies' portion of the locker room, instead of utilizing the cubicle of injured Bob Sirois.
Rowe connected from the right-wing circle after Pete Scamurra's pass was deflected onto his stick. It was a fitting result to a penalty called on Vancouver's Chris Oddleifson, who was chased for sticking his elbow into Rowe's chin.
Walter's goal was appropriate, too. With the Canucks' Harold Snepsts off for tripping, Washington's Bengt Gustafsson nailed Oddleifson with a legal check. Oddleifson retailated with another elbow, but referee Denis Morel declined to reduce Vancouver to a two-man shortage.
The play moved to the Vancouver end, where Robert Picard eluded Vancouver's Jere Gillis and fired at goalie Glen Hanlon. Walter needed two rebounds to beat the Canucks' netminder with his eighth goal.
Besides Boutin, Washington benefited from excellent performances by Picard and his fellow defenders -- Rick Green, Paul MacKinnon and Pete Scamurra. The play up front was consistent, too, with Paul Mulvey donning a helmet for the firt time and generally keeping the feisty Canucks away from linemates Gustafsson and Rolf Edberg.
Antero Lehtonen will accompany the Capitals to Long Island tonight, which means that either Greg Pollis or Mark Lofthouse can expect to join a spare goalie in the stands.