Two weeks ago, in Los Angeles, goalie Dave Parro shattered his stick on the ice when the Kings scored with 16 seconds left to extend a Washington Capitals losing streak that eventually reached 13 games.
Saturday night, in Hartford, Parro waved his stick in unrestrained joy as the final buzzer signaled his second NHL shutout, a 44-save effort that brought the Capitals a 4-0 victory, their first in five weeks.
The frustrations of that stretch were forgotten afterward, as the Capitals joked about measurements for Stanley Cup rings and compared pluses on a score sheet that for the first time this season contained no minuses.
"I'm just happy for everybody," Parro said. "It's nice to win one like that after being in a slump. It's good to see a lot of smiles in the room and guys joking around. It's been a long time."
Despite the losing streak and the feeling of helplessness that often seemed to grip his teammates, Parro played steady hockey throughout. Although other teams have lost by scores like 15-2 and 12-4 and 11-2, the Capitals are one of four NHL teams that have not yielded more than six goals in any game this season.
"I've been handling it okay, maybe because I've been in this situation before," Parro said. "At Rochester and in junior hockey (at Saskatoon), we had some tough times. But when you're in a hole, don't dig it deeper.
"That was just frustration at L.A. When something builds up in you, you let it out. It's like any bad day at work; afterward, you let it out. Maybe I should have done it off the ice, though."
Oddly, the Capitals' two victories have come in two of Parro's busiest games. He stopped 37 of 40 shots in the 6-3 triumph over Detroit Oct. 10, then blocked 44 in Hartford, many of extreme difficulty.
"I worked hard for that shutout," Parro said. "Sometimes you get a shutout without being tested, but I was seeing a lot of shots in this one. Everything was going my way. I always seemed to be in the right place. I was covering the puck and I was cutting off their passes. You wish every day were like that."
Coach Bryan Murray wishes every game was so pleasant. When he took over Wednesday, he said Parro would be his No. 1 goalie, because he knew what to expect from Parro, having coached him in Hershey last year. But even Murray has been surprised by Parro's concentration.
"The early part of last year, I was concerned about him," Murray said. "He didn't show that intensity. Dave's approach to life is pretty nonchalant and he enjoys anything. He's working harder now, though. There's been a big change in one year.
"At Hershey, he had quick hands and he was quick with his movements from the waist up. But I was worried about his legs. He's improved considerably. Now he moves around well, besides taking advantage of that quick glove."
Blaine Stoughton, Hartford's leading scorer, can attest to Parro's talent. In the first period, Stoughton took the puck away from Mike Gartner and went in on a breakaway, but Parro dived out to smother his shot. In the third period, Stoughton sent a hard shot toward the upper right corner of the net, but Parro gloved it with a move that left Stoughton shaking his head.
When Parro was named the No. 1 star after the game, he received enthusiastic applause from the Civic Center crowd of 11,278, which included 27 members of the Washington Capitals Fan Club.
Despite the victory, Murray had the players on the ice at Fort Dupont yesterday at noon, following an early flight back from Hartford.
"They can have a day off in late May," Murray said.
Murray had a few things to say during Saturday's game, too. As the second period ended, Hartford's Chris Kotsopoulos and Washington's Rick Green exchanged bear hugs and all the players from both teams milled around them. Murray tried to help the officials disperse all hands, then as the third period began he came close to fisticuffs with Ricky Ley, Hartford's assistant coach. Officials and players got between them.
"I had told their guys at the end of the second period, 'Why don't you get off the ice and stop that stuff?' " Murray said.