The Capitals chose an unlikely site to record their highest score of the season tonight. Victorious only once in eight previous visits to Quebec's Le Colisee, Washington rose up and buried the Nordiques, 9-2.
Gary Sampson and Craig Laughlin each scored twice to lead an assault that matched Washington's highest figure ever on the road, a 9-3 decision in Colorado in 1979.
Although Sunday's 5-0 victory over Chicago indicated the Capitals were back in form, nobody could have foreseen this rout. Quebec had won four straight games; Washington had been winless in five road contests during November.
The way it started, there was little reason to expect any change. Quebec's Anton Stastny scored on the first shot of the game at the 26-second mark.
After Sampson and Laughlin sent Washington in front, Michel Goulet evened the score on the Nordiques' first shot in 12 minutes. Then, at the start of the second period, Quebec threw everything at Pat Riggin except the English language dictionary.
In five minutes, Riggin stopped nine shots, while Quebec goalie Daniel Bouchard was a mere bystander. His turn would come, however, and he would not be around to watch the finish.
Included in the barrage Riggin faced was a drive that caught him on the inside of the right knee. He was slow to rise, he looked awkward on the next two stops and it is not certain he will be able to face the Rangers in New York Wednesday night (WDCA-TV-20, 7:30).
If Riggin was in discomfort, his teammates did their best to ease the situation. With Peter Stastny off for hooking, Scott Stevens deflected Laughlin's shot past Bouchard for the first of Washington's three power play goals.
In a display of togetherness, Stevens later tried to have the goal switched to Laughlin, saying, "I'm really not sure whether I touched it at all." The official scorer, after checking the videotape, determined he had.
Shortly thereafter, Bob Carpenter was blasted by Normand Rochefort and needed treatment before limping off the ice. He was back soon enough to score his 15th goal, on a play that left the Nordiques fuming.
"He just knocked the wind out of me and I couldn't breathe," Carpenter said. "Once you catch your breath, you're okay."
Gaetan Duchesne took the puck away from Peter Stastny behind Quebec's net and passed to Carpenter in the right wing circle. Bouchard got a piece of the shot, but it trickled behind the goal line near the far post.
The Nordiques quickly swept it out and complained that it never was in. Referee Ron Hoggarth consulted the goal judge, who, despite his status as an employe of the Nordiques, confirmed the score. His reward was a threatening fist from Quebec's Randy Moller.
Twenty-eight seconds later, Bryan Erickson fired a high backhander past Bouchard for a 5-2 advantage. The frustrated goalie, apparently sending his teammates a message, left his crease to take runs at Sampson and Doug Jarvis before the period ended.
Bouchard was replaced by Mario Gosselin after Dave Christian and Alan Haworth beat him early in the third period. Bouchard yielded seven goals in 24 shots; Gosselin would give up two in nine.
First, Sampson stole the puck in the Quebec end and connected off Gosselin's arm. Then, Laughlin knocked in his second from close range on a power play. The third extra-man score matched Sunday's total and was one of many positive signs on the night.
"One game doesn't make a season, but it's enjoyable right now," said Laughlin, who also earned two assists for a four-point game. Until he collected a goal and an assist Sunday, one point was his top output.
"I'm not doing anything differently. I'm a streak player and once I get on a roll, everything goes in. I've got a little more confidence than I did the first 20 games and I'm just shooting at the net. Before I tried to pick a spot and I was shooting wide."
For Sampson, who has seven goals, the night's work was double his output in 15 games last season.
"Any goal I get is a bonus," said Sampson, designated a defensive winger. "I think my first goal helped give us some confidence. Everybody went to the net, I was standing by the side and the puck landed right at my feet with the net open. I barely chipped it and it went up in the air like a golf shot, but it went in and got us even and that was important.
"Tomorrow's a big game. They'll learn to respect us again."
Coach Bryan Murray felt Monday's personnel shakeup and the victory over Chicago were key factors in the big victory.
"Very definitely -- some eyes opened, not that we meant to threaten anybody by shifting players," Murray said. "I think the win against Chicago loosened some people up who'd been struggling. No question, this was a big one."