The 13,766 people who sat in Capital Centre Saturday will have difficulty believing what happened here tonight. Certainly, the Quebec Nordiques had trouble understanding what became of the two easy points that used to accompany the Washington Capitals to Le Colisee.

Applying heavy forechecking pressure to the Quebec defense and holding the Stastny brothers scoreless, the Capitals breezed to a 7-4 victory, their first success in six visits to Quebec City. As a result, Washington climbed over the New York Islanders into second place in the Patrick Division, while extending their string of unbeaten road games to eight.

Dennis Maruk scored two goals, Mike Gartner collected three assists and virtually every other player was an important contributor as Washington atoned for Saturday's 7-2 loss to the New York Rangers.

"What we did last night at home embarrassed us," Maruk said. "It was important for us to come back here and not lose two in a row. That would have hurt our confidence, but instead we regained our confidence."

The broadest smile in a dressing room full of happy faces belonged to Gaetan Duchesne, who scored the game's first goal and joined linemates Bobby Gould and Glen Currie in pinning that zero on the Stastnys.

Duchesne received a trophy before the game commemorating his entry into the Hockey Hall of Fame in his nearby hometown of Les Saules, and a section full of friends and relatives cheered each Washington goal, to the discomfort of the rest of the 15,258 spectators. "I feel great," Duchesne said. "I never score against Quebec before and to beat them, with my whole family here, is so great."

Duchesne's goal was matched by Wilf Paiement, then Maruk's power-play score was followed by Michel Goulet's extra-man goal. Suddenly, however, the Capitals unloaded three goals in five minutes to break the game open. None of those who scored had previously netted more than two this season.

Currie, set up in the deep slot by Gould, sent his third through a gathering in front of goalie Dan Bouchard at 8:00 of the second period to snap the tie.

It became 4-2 at 11:01, as Ted Bulley jumped on a puck that had squirted just outside the crease while Craig Laughlin and Quebec's Dave Pichette hacked at it to the right of Bouchard. Bulley, who recorded No. 2, was playing because Ken Houston remained in Washington for the early-morning birth of his first son, Brian.

Chris Valentine's backhander, after Bouchard had blocked a Greg Theberge slap shot, made it 5-2 at 12:55, as the Capitals' power play succeeded for the second time. It was the third goal for Valentine, an emergency replacement for Bengt Gustafsson, who has a bruised shoulder.

"I think they got discouraged after that," said Coach Bryan Murray.

Quebec was given an opportunity to get back in the game when Washington's Randy Holt was assessed a major penalty for spearing Peter Stastny early in the third period. With Rod Langway playing brilliantly, the Capitals survived almost three minutes of the scheduled five, then the sides evened up when Quebec's Pierre Aubry hooked Doug Jarvis.

Laughlin, netting his fifth goal in six games, and Maruk, with his 21st of the season, padded the margin against John Garrett, who relieved Bouchard starting the third period.

Marc Tardif scored two goals 51 seconds apart to conclude the scoring, one on a deflection off Scott Stevens' stick and the other on a breakaway. Long before that, the Duchesne contingent was chanting, "Nana, nana, hey, hey, goodbye" from its perch in the upper balcony.

While Washington never had won here, ex-Montrealers Langway, Laughlin, Jarvis and Brian Engblom had not been particularly successful, either. Prior to this season, the Canadiens were 1-5-2 in regular-season play at Le Colisee.

"They didn't have that extra enthusiasm they have when they play the Canadiens," Engblom said. "With Montreal, our faces were in the glass all night and we had to kill ourselves to get out of our end. I'm happy it wasn't that way tonight."