The Washington Capitals did not have a letdown after Saturday's dramatic victory in Boston. Instead, they picked up steam, rolling over Pittsburgh, 9-1, last night at Capital Centre to extend their winning streak to five.
Bob Carpenter and Larry Murphy each scored twice as the Capitals got goals in bunches against netminder Roberto Romano and his successor, Denis Herron.
Perhaps the most satisfying aspect of the noncontest was the performance of Bob Mason in the Washington nets. Mason, last seen yielding three goals to the New York Islanders in a 16-minute appearance, stopped 32 shots last night, including some testing drives with the game still in doubt. For an extra flourish, he earned an assist on Doug Jarvis' opening goal, the first for a Washington goaltender in 33 months.
Although Jarvis and Dean Evason scored 73 seconds apart in the first period, the Penguins kept Mason hopping beyond the midpoint of the second session, when Carpenter, Murphy and Gaetan Duchesne scored within 1 minute 14 seconds to douse any doubt.
The Capitals scored the next three even quicker, as Dave Christian, Carpenter and Murphy struck within 51 seconds. Christian, scoring a goal for the fifth straight game, beat Romano two seconds before the second period ended; Herron, who had blocked 46 shots by the Capitals during a 3-3 tie in Pittsburgh Nov. 21, yielded two scores in his first 49 seconds of work.
The Penguins seemed disorganized without rookie center Mario Lemieux, who has not played since he was checked by Darren Veitch in that Thanksgiving eve game and sprained his left knee.
Still, the Patrick Division cellar dwellers put up a struggle before their winless streak was stretched to nine. They tested Mason three times in the first 21 seconds of the game. Then, down by 2-0, they launched the first six shots of the second period. It was only after two unsuccessful power plays and Carpenter's first goal that they lost their spark.
"At the beginning of the second period, we weren't playing that well and it could easily have been 3-2 for them," Carpenter said. "But Bob Mason made some big saves, I got a lucky goal and we pulled away."
"Bob Mason played very, very well," said Coach Bryan Murray. "He made a couple of big stops early -- they had three shots on the first shift and maybe it would have been a different ball game if they got one then. He was confident out there, which he wasn't against the Islanders."
Mason, whose NHL debut last year was marked by another 9-1 rout of Pittsburgh, lost his shutout on the Penguins' 29th shot, with 9:17 remaining, after Mike Gartner had produced the Capitals' ninth straight goal, tying a club record.
Pittsburgh's John Chabot picked off Scott Stevens' pass in front of the Washington net and fired away. Mason made the initial save, but the puck lay in the crease and Doug Shedden poked it in.
"Coming up with the big saves early made a difference tonight," Mason said. "I know I have to play well to stay here. I wasn't quite as nervous this time, nothing like the Islanders game.
"I don't normally get that uptight. That night when I got on the ice, my legs were heavy and shaky. It's hard on your confidence to get pulled like that, but it was a good move, because I was shaky."
Both Carpenter and Murphy had good chances for hat tricks. Carpenter was tripped from behind by Moe Mantha as he skated in on a third-period breakaway and probably deserved a penalty shot. Murphy was wide on a couple of chances late in the game.
"In a game that wide open, he (the referee) is not going to call a penalty shot," said Carpenter, who has 18 goals. "I'm not going to worry about it. This was a big win, especially coming off yesterday's game. It would have been easy to have a letdown after that one."
There were a couple of unpleasant notes for the Capitals. Winger Alan Haworth sat out his second straight game with a bruised ankle and winger Bryan Erickson joined him on the casualty list when he strained his left knee in the first period. Both are considered questionable for Tuesday's game with New Jersey.
Peter Andersson, who played one period at left wing Saturday before moving back to his normal position on defense, went the route on the wing last night, teamed with Carpenter and Gartner. He earned two assists and did not look out of place -- with good reason. He was a forward during his junior years in Sweden.
"I played forward all my life until 16," Andersson said. "Then a lot of defensemen were hurt and I was the youngest guy, so they put me on defense and I stayed there. It was easier tonight than yesterday, in this kind of game and on a bigger rink."
Somehow, winning has made it easier for everybody. The Capitals, a struggling, sub-.500 outfit a mere eight days ago, now are 11-8-5, only two points behind the second-place Islanders in the tightening Patrick Division race.