It was almost a carbon copy. For the second straight night, the Washington Capitals battled from behind to a tough 4-2 road victory completed by an empty-net goal.

The victims tonight were the St. Louis Blues, who had a substantial 27-18 margin on the shot clock but were foiled by the goaltending of Al Jensen.

The empty-net scorer of Tuesday night's victory over the Red Wings in Detroit was Doug Jarvis, who was taken to a Detroit hospital after being knocked out. He came back to play a regular shift tonight and did his usual fine job of penalty killing as his consecutive-game streak reached 762.

"I felt good; I just shortened the shifts a little," said Jarvis, who earned an assist on a goal by Gaetan Duchesne that tied the score in the second period.

The victory restored the Capitals, who have lost only one of their last 13 road games, into undisputed possession of first place in the Patrick Division, two points ahead of Philadelphia.

Jensen, making his first NHL start since Nov. 13, looked sharp from the outset. He did not let the Blues' opening goal, a 50-footer off his stick by Rob Ramage, erode his confidence.

"I felt good, but the team played well in front of me," Jensen said. "They limited the good opportunities and I could see the puck most of the time.

"I know I played three games in Binghamton, but it's been almost two months since I played here and I did feel a little different. When I saw the empty-net goal, it was the first time I relaxed in the game."

Bob Carpenter provided that padding with 35 seconds left, earning his 31st goal after an earlier shot at the vacated cage had missed the post by inches.

"That's the first empty-net goal I ever got," Carpenter said. "The first one hit a stick and just missed, but Gus (Bengt Gustafsson) got it back to me and I made sure of it."

Duchesne made an outstanding play in the second period, one on which he was driven into the boards so hard by the Blues' Gilbert Delorme that the glass shattered. Play continued anyway; Duchesne rose and moved into the slot, where he took Craig Laughlin's pass and beat Rick Wamsley for his 10th goal.

"It was a very good hit by Delorme," Duchesne said. "I saw him coming and I put myself on the board to take it.

"As I was hit, I sent the puck around the boards to Locker (Laughlin), then I broke for the net. I saw the glass break, but I didn't say anything."

It was still even when the period ended, Wamsley foiling a breakaway by Mike Gartner and Jensen making a big save on Craig Levie two seconds before the intermission.

Bob Gould, playing his best game of the season, sent Washington ahead to stay on his fifth shot of the night at 1:24 of the third period.

Gould stole the puck from Doug Wickenheiser and moved in from the left wing circle to hit the far corner of the net, as Wamsley was distracted by a wrestling match in the crease between Washington's Dave Christian and Kevin LaVallee of St. Louis.

"He (Wickenheiser) tried to deke me and the puck hit my skate and bounced forward," Gould said.

"It was kind of crowded in front and I went for the far side. I think it went straight in, but it was so jammed up I wasn't sure until I saw the light."

Gould played alongside Gustafsson and Christian most of the time, as Coach Bryan Murray juggled his lines and made further midgame adjustments to complicate the Blues' bid for certain matchups.

"I upgraded him (Gould) and he responded," Murray said. "Linemates mean a great deal. He hasn't had anybody creative to get him the puck."

It became 3-1 on a power play with 7:38 remaining, as St. Louis defensemen Delorme and Tim Bothwell wound up on the same side of the ice. Mike McEwen, who started the game at left wing but was back on the point for his big moment, took Christian's pass at the blueline and moved into the left faceoff circle before beating the deserted Wamsley low on the glove side.

The Blues bounced back 40 seconds later to close to 3-2. Jorgen Pettersson netted his 12th goal after taking Dave Barr's drop pass in the left wing circle.

St. Louis removed Wamsley for a sixth skater with a minute left, but Carpenter spoiled any dreams the 10,127 fans had of a miracle finish.

The Blues, who last beat the Capitals here exactly three years ago and managed only a tie in the 1984-85 three-game season series, were further distressed by the loss of top scorer Bernie Federko. He suffered undetermined rib damage when he was struck by a puck in the third period.