In his second start for the Washington Capitals, goaltender Pete Peeters went the distance last night and turned in a 31-save shutout to defeat the Quebec Nordiques, 3-0.

Gary Sampson, Dave Christian and Mike Gartner supplied the goals as a Capital Centre crowd of 16,740 saw the Capitals extend their unbeaten streak to six games.

Peeters, relieved with 35 seconds left because of leg cramps in his Washington debut Tuesday night, showed no weaknesses this time. His performance constituted the Capitals' first shutout in 32 games and, of the four turned in by Washington goalies a year ago, none required more than 24 saves.

The fans were chanting "Peeeet" long after the game ended and the goalie who once heard nothing but jeers here as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers said he prefers the present mood.

"I'd be a liar if I said I didn't hear them," Peeters said. "It was unbelievable, quite a compliment. I played a lot of games here with the Flyers and maybe what I heard then were reverse cheers. This is great.

"I was so excited to be traded to a winner, and the way my teammates are playing in front of me, it makes it easy. Rod (Langway) made a big play and Darren (Veitch) broke up a two-on-one. Everybody was keeping the shooters to the outside. To shut out Quebec, you have to be doing a lot of things right."

Peeters, beaten, 7-5, by the Nordiques while playing for Boston Nov. 5, was making the right moves from the start last night. Just 20 seconds into the game, he got his arm on a point-blank drive by Michel Goulet, Quebec's top shooter, thereby preventing Washington opposition from scoring a first-minute goal for the fifth time in 12 games.

"I've played Quebec a lot and I know if Dale Hunter has the puck behind the net he'll get it out to Goulet," Peeters said. "I moved over and he shot it into my arm."

Later in the period, Peeters made a spectacular glove save of a rising shot by John Anderson while the Nordiques were short-handed.

"We're going to give up quality chances, particularly the way we play the power play, and we need those big stops," said Coach Bryan Murray. "If Pete and Al (Jensen) keep on playing the way they are, we're capable of winning 1-0 and 2-1 games, and that's the key to doing well."

Murray made a surprising move when he assigned Sampson, who had not scored a goal all season, to left wing on the No. 1 line with Bob Carpenter and Gartner. It quickly paid off in the game-winning goal midway through the first period. Sampson hit the far corner from the left wing circle after Carpenter had lured the defense his way and dished off the puck.

"I put my head down and shot it; they say that's what the big guys do," said Sampson, whose sense of humor has survived what he called the longest drought of his life. "I didn't think I was ever going to score.

"I was surprised to be out there with Bobby and Garts. I'd been playing with Doug Jarvis and Louie (Franceschetti) on the fourth line, just spotted occasionally, and all of a sudden practice comes and I'm moved up. I hope this gives him (Murray) some confidence in me."

Hunter was off for tripping when Christian netted his eighth power play goal midway through the second period, on a rebound of a shot by Gartner. Bengt Gustafsson also earned an assist, to tie Ryan Walter's 5-year-old club record of an assist in eight straight games.

Moments after that score provided breathing room for the Capitals, Langway made the play to which Peeters referred. The goalie blocked a shot by J.F. Sauve and had no chance when Brent Ashton pounced on the rebound. But Langway reached out with his glove and deflected the shot atop the net.

The Capitals' third goal came with only 2:38 left in the game. Sampson dumped the puck off the glass behind the Quebec net and goaltender Clint Malarchuk went back to play it. To his surprise, the puck bounced crazily in front and, although Malarchuk hustled back into the net, Gartner put a backhander past him for goal No. 14.

"I guess when things go right, they keep going your way," said Sampson, who had only three assists in 16 previous games.

What had been a snappily played contest deteriorated in the third period, after a brief skirmish between Hunter and Gustafsson ended with the Nordique jamming the butt end of his stick in the Swede's stomach. Referee Ron Wicks assessed each player a roughing minor -- butt-ending calls for an automatic major -- and thereafter there were several fights and other examples of foul play.

"There were a couple of situations where Hunter goes after Gustafsson, and the penalties are even," Murray said. "Then, when I put Dwight Schofield out there, Wicks tells me through my captain that he's upset with me because I sent Schofield out.

"He's upset? I was upset. If he won't take charge out there, then we just have to take matters in our own hands. (Wilf) Paiement was after Peeters all night and there's never a warning until the last 10 seconds. Then he tells Paiement to stop it or he'll throw him out."