Craig Laughlin considers himself a streak player. For two weeks, he will seem to be skating in snowshoes. Then he will break out and look like a scoring sensation.
Right now, Laughlin is playing exceptionally well. He scored two goals last night as the Washington Capitals routed Pittsburgh, 6-2, at Capital Centre and has three goals and six assists in the last five games.
"I'm getting more ice time and I'm on a set line, which helps," Laughlin said. "But I'm also making good on some of my chances, which I wasn't doing before. I'm a streak player -- for seven or eight games, I'll get lots of chances and then I'll go into a five-game drought. I'm fortunate to be in a streak right now."
The Capitals, who remained a point in front of Philadelphia, have a lot of streaks going, not the least of which is a 10-game unbeaten run against the Penguins, whom they beat in Pittsburgh Wednesday night, 5-4.
Goaltender Bob Mason, who stopped 21 shots and made some tough saves with the game still close, extended his winning streak to eight games.
Bob Carpenter scored his 33rd goal, a career high. He had 32 his first two seasons before dropping to 28 a year ago.
Dave Christian got his 17th goal, the point extending his scoring streak to 10 games.
Darren Veitch set up two goals, Mike Gartner's 28th and Glen Currie's first, and a plus-four night gave him a plus-26 rating, tops on the Capitals.
Another big plus was the crowd of 13,153, a surprising turnout on any Thursday night but remarkable considering yesterday's snow.
There was one negative note, at least for defenseman Peter Andersson. He was sent to Binghamton to play six games and attempt to regain the touch that made him Sweden's best defenseman in the Canada Cup in September.
This was a night when just about everything went the Capitals' way, right from the first goal, on which Pittsburgh defenseman Petteri Lehto deflected Gartner's shot and the puck sailed into the upper right corner.
It became 2-0 after Larry Murphy skated right to left through the slot, drew three Penguins toward him and backhanded a pass toward Gartner on the right wing. When Gartner was tackled by defenseman Rod Buskas, Christian, trailing on the play, lifted the puck over goalie Roberto Romano's left shoulder.
It was 3-0 before the first period ended. Laughlin's 40-footer struck Romano's stick and spun high in the air, dropping into the net before the diving goalie could catch up with it.
Carpenter, lying on the ice near the Pittsburgh net, made a superb play to get the puck out to Rod Langway at the point and begin the sequence that led to Laughlin's second goal, a second-period deflection of a shot by Mike McEwen.
Then Veitch's head-man pass found Currie alone at the Pittsburgh blueline -- the Penguins were in the midst of a line change -- and Currie went in to put a breakaway backhander off Romano's pad for his first goal of the season.
"I hope it's the start of something big," Currie said. "It should give me a little confidence. Darren fired the puck at me and it ended up in my feet. By the time I got my head up, I was on top of him (Romano), so I went to my backhand and got it up just high enough."
Carpenter put in No. 33 one-third through the third period, on a rebound of a shot by Gartner after Gaetan Duchesne had pried the puck loose along the rear boards.
"That's a relief," Carpenter said. "It's a little block out of the way and it's time to keep going. I always seem to stall at major intersections.
"When I breezed past 30, I thought that was over, but I haven't been handling the puck that well and all of a sudden I wasn't getting the chances. I concentrated on handling the puck tonight, even though I let my man go a bit, and I got a lot of chances."
Mason's shutout disappeared on a Pittsburgh power play with 10:01 remaining, as Doug Shedden deflected a shot by Joe McDonnell and the puck went right onto the stick of Mario Lemieux for an easy tap-in. Later, Warren Young netted his 26th goal, on a rebound of a shot by Todd Charlesworth.
As is customary when teams play games back to back, there was considerable extracurricular activity, beginning with a fight in the game's second minute between Gartner and Mitch Lamoureux.
With 3:19 left in the game, Lamoureux and Greg Adams became involved in a shoving match that escalated when ex-Capital Gary Rissling tried to taunt Adams. Washington's Scott Stevens pushed Rissling, with whom he had been involved in a lengthy incident Wednesday, and Bryan Maxwell jumped in to battle Stevens.
The officials intervened quickly, but Stevens escaped the grasp of referee Terry Gregson and linesman Randy Mitton to pound Maxwell. Eventually, Buskas came off the Pittsburgh bench to join Maxwell and Rissling in a concerted effort to lure Stevens into a fight.
Since a game misconduct would have been No. 3 for Stevens, automatically giving him a suspension for Saturday's game against the New York Rangers, the youngster was relieved to learn he had received only a 10-minute misconduct, with Buskas the only player ejected.
"I didn't deserve a game misconduct, but I was afraid I might get one," Stevens said. "With three guys trying to get at me, I was hardly at fault. And I think I controlled myself when the linesman had me by the arm. I just skated around with him. There was no way I was going to try to break away."
With 1:34 remaining, Pittsburgh was caught with too many men on the ice, a violation that could have called for a penalty shot. Gregson declined on the grounds it was not deliberate. Washington Coach Bryan Murray wanted it, to give Laughlin a shot at his first NHL hat trick.
"I'd like to have taken one," Laughlin said. "I never seem to get any breakaways in practice, much less a game."