During the last 10 minutes Sunday night, as the New York Islanders treated goalie Al Jensen like a target in a shooting gallery, only one Washington line was able to carry the play to the New York end of the ice.

The unit of Glen Currie, Gaetan Duchesne and Bobby Gould forechecked capably despite the intense New York pressure and almost helped Jensen pull out a victory. Another trio was responsible for the giveaway that enabled Clark Gillies to score and create a 3-3 tie with 70 seconds left.

Duchesne and Currie began the season in Hershey, while General Manager David Poile gave full opportunity to veteran players acquired during the offseason. Duchesne was summoned back after three games; Currie followed in early November.

The plus-minus figures illustrate the value of the men Coach Bryan Murray considers his best defensive line. Duchesne leads the team at plus-eight, Gould is plus-seven and Currie plus-five.

Additionally, since Currie's arrival, the Capitals have increased their penalty-killing efficiency. After yielding 17 goals in 51 short-handed situations while Currie toiled in Hershey, Washington has been beaten only six times in 38 tries in defusing opposition power plays since he arrived.

If they are outstanding defensively, however, the three have made important offensive contributions, too. Of Duchesne's four goals, three have been game-winners. Gould has two winners among his seven goals. That is a pretty hefty percentage of key scores on a team with only eight victories.

"We're a good line because we work hard -- nothing else," Duchesne said. "It's the work that's given us the scoring chances. It seems if you want to break away and hang around the red line, nothing will happen. But if you work hard, fight in the corners, you get the chances."

"Kid (Currie) and Gaets are real workers," Gould said. "We all pretty well play the same way. We played together last year and it makes a big difference when you know where the other guys are going."

Considering their ages -- Gould, 25, Currie, 24, and Duchesne, 20 -- the three figure to get better with experience. In fact, Currie promises immediate improvement, now that he finally has obtained some of his own sticks, which had been left at Hershey.

After playing six games in 10 days from coast to coast, the Capitals have a chance to relax. Their next game is Thursday at Capital Centre against Pittsburgh . . . Defenseman Doug Hicks, who saw brief action Sunday, was returned to Hershey after the game . . . Timo Blomqvist and Paul MacKinnon, both idled by bruised ribs, should be ready Thursday . . . Murray has ordered his power-play personnel onto the ice a half-hour before regular practices this week, a reaction to the feeble extra-man effort Sunday.