The Washington Capitals had a team-record 51 shots on goal last night and seven got past Colorado goalie Steve Janaszak. The result was a 7-1 victory that boosted Washington's unbeaten streak to three games, a positive ending to a 13-game losing streak.
Rookie Bobby Carpenter had 10 of those shots and scored twice, ending a personal slump in which he had gone 11 games without a goal and eight games without even a plus, for being on the ice during an equal-strength score.
"It's been building up," Carpenter said. "We were pressing too hard, but now we're relaxed and we can take advantage of our chances."
Mike Gartner, starting the season slowly because of a bruised right hand, came on with a goal and four assists, the latter figure matching a team record held by seven others.
"Bobby and I were breaking and Wes (Jarvis) was getting us the puck," Gartner said. "We're playing an offensive style, with one guy back, and we're getting a lot of chances without getting caught."
Coach Bryan Murray's offensive imagination was on display from the opening faceoff, when Gartner switched spots with defenseman Darren Veitch, then broke down the ice behind the defense. That particular move resulted in an icing call, but it set an aggressive pattern that paid off later.
"We've always been a negative team," Murray said. "It's always been a case of cover this team, cover that team, defend. We want the other team to worry about us. We're working on some things and we might take an icing or lose the puck, but we'll make them think about us."
It took 10 shots for Washington to score. Gustafsson sent a long one at Janaszak, Jim Craig's Olympic backup, then raced in to knock the rebound into the net.
"He thought he had it, but it was on his arm and it fell in front of him," Gustafsson said.
Carpenter made it 2-0 by hustling in to beat defenseman Bob Lorimer to the puck after Gartner released it at the Colorado blueline. Carpenter faked out Janaszak and scored easily.
It became 3-0 as Tim Tookey put in his own rebound, following a superb pass from Gaetan Duchesne.
Frequently in the past, the Capitals have collapsed after taking an early lead. This time they maintained their momentum by sending 22 shots at Janaszak in the second period. That tied a one-period team record set against the New York Rangers in 1976.
Ryan Walter's ninth goal boosted the lead to 4-0. Dennis Maruk sent the puck into the slot and Gustafsson, his stick tied up, kicked it toward the crease, where Walter deflected it in.
"I played some soccer and it helped a lot on that one," Gustafsson said.
Goalie Dave Parro's bid for a second straight shutout ended at 5:32 of the second period, after 103 minutes 29 seconds of scoreless play. He took a routine shot by Joe Cirella on the pads, closed his legs and saw the light flash as the puck went between them.
A power-play drive by Greg Theberge, playing his first game since suffering a hip pointer in the 6-4 loss at Denver Oct. 31, put the game beyond the Rockies' reach.
Gartner scored his fifth goal early in the third period on a second rebound, after he shot initially and Carpenter followed it up. Then Carpenter completed the scoring on a power play with a goal that was almost a copy of Gustafsson's. Rick Green shot from the point and Carpenter pounced on the rebound before Janaszak could cover it.
"When he stops it, he makes the stop and then covers it, instead of doing it in one motion," Carpenter said. "I got to it before he could cover it."
Janaszak was playing because Chico Resch, who beat the Capitals in Denver, has a groin pull and Phil Myre was suspended because of a temper tantrum that followed his removal from Sunday's 10-0 loss in Chicago.
Obviously, a rout of the Rockies is no reason for a celebration, inasmuch as they have yielded 40 or more shots nine times in 18 games. But for a team in the Capitals' desperate straits, it was a confidence builder, particularly the way the 7,608 watching responded with applause.
"The guys were able to handle the puck and create some offense," Murray said. "Mind you, it was the Colorado Rockies and all that, but it still means confidence in moving the puck. We played three solid periods and our aim for the weekend is to play three solid periods against Philadelphia (here Saturday and in Philadelphia Sunday)."