After all the trouble it took them to get here, the Washington Capitals came away with nothing tonight. Quebec goalie Daniel Bouchard stopped 28 shots and earned his 23rd NHL shutout as the Nordiques beat Washington for the sixth straight time, 3-0.
Goalie Dave Parro kept the Capitals close for most of the game, turning back 38 shots. It was 1-0 until the sixth minute of the third period, when Marc Tardif's 29th goal put it away.
Tardif's score, and Buddy Cloutier's opening goal at 7:03 of the first period, came on power plays. Quebec now has succeeded on 53 of 172 for 30.8 percent, best in the NHL.
Washington's extra-man play, on the other hand, was awful. The Capitals failed to score on six chances, even when they were presented with a seven-minute power play late in the second period.
That advantage developed when Wally Weir was sent off the Quebec bench with rather obvious orders to get Randy Holt. Weir broke his stick over Holt, then the two exchanged punches at length, with Holt delivering the more telling blows.
The linesmen grabbed them, but for 30 seconds they refused to release their grips on each other. During this stretch, the bare-headed Weir tried to butt the helmeted Holt and, spitting as well, Weir was pointed out the door with a match penalty, a gross misconduct and an extra minor, besides a coincidental fighting major.
That grand opportunity to tie the game and go ahead evaporated without result. A minor to Jim McTaggart for holding erased two minutes and a minor to Timo Blomqvist for hooking wiped out the last 39 seconds. In between, the Capitals were hesitant to shoot, as they were much of the night.
"Our power play was just brutal," said Coach Bryan Murray. "We wouldn't even shoot the puck. They were very aggressive and we hesitated. We could have won the game just on the power play. I guess tonight we found out how much we miss Greg Theberge on the point."
Theberge suffered stretched ligaments in his left knee Sunday in New York and could be out for a month or more.
Quebec was given a five-minute power play late in the first period when Ryan Walter accidentally whacked Cloutier in the head with his stick. The Nordiques fired nine shots at Parro during that stretch, without scoring.
On the two occasions Mike Gartner was nailed for minor offenses, however, the Quebec extra-man play capitalized.
Cloutier scored after Peter Stastny's centering pass from the left wing caromed off Parro's skate and hopped over Dennis Maruk's stick to Cloutier, who immediately sent the puck back toward the goal.
"It hit my mask and then my shoulder and I tried to get it, but it fell behind me," Parro said. "I was prepared for a lot of shots tonight and I got them."
Tardif connected on a drive from the left wing circle that struck the far post and caromed in, rather than out. Alain Cote wrapped up the scoring with 7:29 left, hitting an empty net after Parro dove out to try to control a loose puck.
The shot clock read 20-4 after 3 1/2 minutes of the second period. The Capitals held their own thereafter and forced Bouchard to make several good stops, but that is not the proper strategy against the man who leads the NHL with 19 victories.
"I played with him in Calgary and if you get a couple quick ones, he'll quit," Holt said. "But he gets better as the game goes on and, if he's ahead, he's tough."
Fights between Walter and Dale Hunter, and Torrie Robertson and Peter Stastny, both following some stick swinging, marred the contest. Washington's Bobby Carpenter was smacked across the right eye by a stick in the third period and his contact was knocked out, but he was unhurt.
It was a frustrating finish to a frustrating trip, as it took the Capitals nearly 12 hours to get here Monday from New York.
The Capitals reached the midpoint of the season with a 12-25-3 record, far off the 13-16-11 mark of a year ago. In 600 lifetime games, Washington has managed an embarrassing record of 149-359-92.