The Washington Capitals flew to Denver today with new confidence in goalie Dave Parro, a defense settled by the return of Pat Ribble and Rick Smith, and high hopes of conquering the Colorado Rockies Monday night (WTOP-1500, 9:30 p.m.).
Parro and Ribble were outstanding Saturday night as the Capitals fought the Minnesota North Stars to the buzzer before dropping a 3-2 decision that extended their 0-for-1981 losing streak to five games. Whereas Washington was blown out in the previous four, however, this time the Capitals were unlucky not to gain at least a tie.
Parro, who will start again Monday, blocked 38 shots that included enough remarkable saves to earn him No. 2 star honors. He came out to the blueline to knock a loose puck away from Minnesota's Steve Christoff and generally handled himself like a veteran, even though this was only his second NHL game.
Parro was the victim in a 6-3 loss at Edmonton Wednesday, but he was not all that bad in his debut. He faced repeated breakaways as the Washington defense broke down. On Saturday, though, with Ribble and Smith back, the defense held up well against a speedy Minnesota team that has lost only once in its last 10 games.
Ribble may have played his best game in a Washington uniform. He broke up Minnesota offensive bursts at the blueline, he moved the puck up ice capably and he blocked numerous shots. When Parro was trapped in the corner in the third period, Ribble filled the vacated crease and stopped a blast by Craig Hartsburg.
It was Ribble's first action since he suffered strained ligaments in the right knee Dec. 20. Until the game began, it was questionable how much he could play, and Coach Gary Green had seven defenders dressed, just in case Ribble could not go more than a shift or two. As it was, Ribble played more than anyone else, until he took another Hartsburg shot on the right elbow in the closing minutes.
"Rib (ribble) sure makes a difference," Green said. "It was almost like he was never gone."
"I felt pretty good, I just got tired," Ribble said. "Usually, I could stay out there longer, but tonight I had to cut the shifts short.I thought the knee might give me trouble, particularly since I was playing the right side and had to turn a lot on it, but it didn't give my any problems. I didn't hurt at all until I got that puck in the elbow."
The Capital who was happiest to see Ribble and Smith return to the lineup was Rick Green, who had been overworked while playing despite an upset stomach and a cracked right index finger.
"Having six defensemen now, I was able to rest once in a while," Green said.
Washington even scored a power-play goal for the first time in 1981. Mike Gartner's 24th goal, which created a 2-2 tie late in the second period, was the Capitals' first extra-man success in 36 opportunities.