After yielding seven goals to Winnipeg on Friday, the Washington Capitals had a little discussion about the benefits of defensive hockey. Yesterday, they did more than just talk about it.

With Bob Mason blocking 24 shots for his first professional shutout, the Capitals throttled the Detroit Red Wings, 4-0, and climbed into a second-place tie with the New York Islanders in the Patrick Division.

The Capitals were so dominant in their forechecking that they actually made Mason's job more difficult, because it took 10 minutes before the Red Wings tested him. By that time, Bob Carpenter had scored his 21st goal, all that Washington needed.

"I like to handle the puck and get in the game, but the guys played such a good defensive game, it was a long time before I had to do anything," Mason said. "I'll take it, though. When you get in front, that's good for your confidence, too."

Mason, whose goals-against average dropped to 2.09, knows he must be at his best in every game to earn a permanent place in Washington. He is here temporarily because of Al Jensen's back problems and he and the rest of the team learned afterward that security is not a staple at the moment.

Center Dean Evason, who had played well since being called up two weeks ago, was returned to Binghamton after the game. That still left the club with three extra players, since Glen Currie and Dave Shand returned -- but did not play -- after two weeks of hard labor with the AHL Whalers.

Much of the credit for yesterday's victory fell in the laps of Doug Jarvis, Gaetan Duchesne and Bob Gould, who left the Red Wings' No. 1 line of Steve Yzerman, John Ogrodnick and Ron Duguay muttering. That trio had accounted for 41 goals; yesterday they got off only five shots.

For an added bonus, Jarvis undermined Detroit's only power play of the afternoon by scoring a short-handed goal, the Capitals' third of the season.

"Jarvie's job against Yzerman was a big factor," said Washington captain Rod Langway. "A couple things were said after the Winnipeg game and today we went back to the nitty-gritty of cutting their chances.

"This is the way we have to play to be a winner. If you make a bad play using a defensive style, somebody is there to back you up. If you make a bad play going an offensive style, nobody's there and it costs you a goal."

Washington took advantage of Detroit penalties to grab a 2-0 lead in the first period, with Scott Stevens figuring prominently in both as a power play left wing.

Stevens was screening goalie Greg Stefan when Carpenter lined Washington's fifth shot into the net at 8:53. Carpenter clicked from the slot after taking Alan Haworth's accurate pass from the left wing boards.

Carpenter, who has five goals in his last four games and points in eight straight, lost control as he deked Stefan on a breakaway shortly thereafter and got no further points.

"This is the first time in my life I ever hit a post twice on one shift," Carpenter said. "But that's okay. We just didn't want to give up any today. Bob's had a tough time and we wanted him to get his shutout."

Stevens made it 2-0 with 28 seconds left in the first period, flipping a backhanded rebound over Stefan, who went down stopping Darren Veitch's initial shot. The assist was Veitch's 100th in the NHL.

Jarvis' short-handed goal, with a giant assist from Duchesne, boosted the margin to 3-0 early in the second period. Duchesne pried the puck away from two Red Wings along the side boards in the Washington end and shoved it ahead to Jarvis. He beat Stefan with a drive from the left wing circle.

Duchesne also played a role in the concluding goal, which came before the midpoint of the game. He stole the puck in the Detroit end and pushed it to Gould in the slot. Stefan made a good save on Gould, but had no chance when Larry Murphy pounced on the rebound and netted his fourth goal in four games.

Mason stopped eight shots in each period and preserved his shutout with a fine save against Kelly Kisio with six minutes left. He got a break on Lane Lambert's rebound, as defenseman Timo Blomqvist deflected the puck and it banged off a post.

"The shutout is a nice boost, but the next start I have to try to do the same thing -- the best I can," Mason said. "I was disappointed when I was sent down after training camp, but I knew the other two guys had played well last year and deserved to be here.

"I went down with a good attitude and waited for my chance. Now I'm getting it and I hope things keep going well."

Coach Bryan Murray was forced to come up with a new short-range goal for the team, beginning with Tuesday's game in St. Louis. What appeared a bit optimistic -- 12 points in nine games beginning in Quebec Nov. 27 -- was reached in only seven contests.