In his first three National Hockey League games, Washington goalie Dave Parro progressed from six-goal victim to No. 2 star to No. 1 star. There was only one way to improve in game four and Parro did it last night, stopping 29 shots to blank the Los Angeles Kings, 3-0.
It was the Capital Centre debut for Parro, 23, and by the last minute of the second period, many of the 9,648 fans were standing and making the walls resound with the first chants of "Par-ro, Par-ro."
The young goalie made some remarkable saves, including several difficult deflections from the slot. Included in Parro's grab bag were a club record 12 shots fired his way by Marcel dioonne, the NHL's leading scorer.
"He earned his shutout," said Dionne, and no dissenting voicess were heard.
"So much has been happening in such a short time," Parro said. "You get goose bumps hearing the crowd shout your name like that. It's a good feeling to know they're behind you. It lifted my morale and got me up. I didn't want to let them down."
This was the Capitals' third shutout this season, after they had recorded only four in their first six seasons. Wayne Stephenson stopped Chicago and Mike Palmateer shut out Philadelphia earlier this season. Both men were hurt and in the stands last night, which is why Paprro was in the nets in the first place.
Rick Smith, Mike Gartner and Paul Mulvey provided the goals that ended the Kings' five-game unbeaten streak.
Smith connected midway through the first period on a rebound of a drive by Dennis Ververgaert. It was his second of the season and he commented that "I just need one more to get a defenseman's hat trick."
Gartner netted his 25th at 12:05 of the second period on a power play, only the second extra-man success for Washington in its last 44 tries. Los Angeles goalie Mario Lessard made tough saves on Glen Currie and Rick Green before Gartner's drive from the right point struck his pad and trickled over the goal line.
Mulvey ended any remaining suspense by hitting an empty net with 55 seconds left. That score came after the Capitals did an excellent job of killing a late tripping penalty against Bob Kelly.
"When they had that power play and didn't get anyting, it gave us a big boost," Parro said. "The big thing was to get the victory. A shutout was second in my thoughts. With two minutes left I started thinking shutout and as the clock ran down, and they were putting pressure on, I was sneaking looks at the clock.
"This one certainly wasn't easy. They got their sticks on a lot of shots from the points. There was one in the first period I just got my toe on. I knew from there it was going to be a tough one."
The toe shot was Greg Terrion's deflection of a drive by Mark Hardy. Also in the first period, Paprro made a great save on a shot by Dave Taylor, set up in the slot by Dionne.
Parro foiled breakaways by Mike Murphy and Dionne in the second period, then with 19 seconds left he brought the crowd to its feet by stopping Garry Unger's drive that deflected off Washington defenseman Pat Ribble.
In the third period, Parro blocked Jay Wells' deflection of a centering pass by Dionne, then stopped Dionne's 10th shot despite a close-in screen by Charlie Simmer. Although Simmer has scored 43 goals in 45 games, he has none in the three meetings with Washington, for which Gartner deserves considerable credit.
On this night, though, everyone was directing the credit in the direction of Parro, who paid his dues with 3 1/2 seasons of labor in the American Hockey League before the call finally came 10 days ago.
"This was a great win for us," said Rick Green, the No. 3 star. "We played three disciplined periods and Davy Parro was making some great saves. He's coping well with the pressure. Those key saves makes the difference."
"This is a good hockey team and everybody played well tonight," said Smith, the No. 2 star. "The goaltending was absolutely great."
"Tonight the goaling was unbelilevable," said Ribble, who would have been a star if they had more to pass out. "Good goaltending, sure, it's going to help us win games."
The Capitals need every victory they can muster, as they cling to 11th place with the pack breathing close behind. This was only the third Washington triumph over a team with a winning record and it created only their second two-game winning streak in six weeks.