Rookie goalie Darren Jensen passed his midterm exam with ease tonight as he and his Philadelphia Flyers teammates shut out the Washington Capitals, 4-0.
Jensen, who learned earlier in the day that he would start the Patrick Division game against the Capitals, turned away 24 Washington shots to register his first NHL shutout in only his 15th game since being recalled from Hershey of the American Hockey League following the death of Pelle Lindbergh Nov. 10.
"You could say this was a midterm exam for us," said Flyers Coach Mike Keenan. "And there would have to be several A's passed out, including one for Jensen. He's started several pressure-packed games for us and I thought this would be a good opportunity to develop his confidence for playoff competition."
Jensen, a quiet 25-year-old with only one NHL game to his credit prior to this season, was thrilled just to have a complete-game victory, his 10th since he began alternating starting assignments with Bob Froese.
"I found out after pregame practice this morning that I would be starting," Jensen said. "I was a little loose to start practice and I went home and tried to relax."
Jensen's job was made easier by his teammates, who kept the Capitals without a shot on goal for more than six minutes in the first period and never allowed second shots off Jensen's blocks.
"Actually, I didn't think shutout until there were only two seconds left," said Jensen, who had one perfect game at Hershey this season and four with Fort Wayne of the International Hockey League in 1983-84.
"I wondered for a while if the Caps would ever get a shot, and I was really getting nervous. We were dominating at the other end and that's when the other team will often break out and come down and score. I didn't want to let that happen."
Jensen figures his performance tonight will help his chance of getting another big assignment. "I'm not content just sitting on the bench," the former University of North Dakota standout said.
"I'm glad he put me in so I can show him I can play in the big games. The victory gives us a psychological edge and keeps us ahead in the league race."
But Jensen has the shutout puck from tonight's game, which he carefully guarded in his locker stall as the Philadelphia media crowded around. "I don't have too many trophies from hockey as yet," said Jensen.
"I'm going to send this back home (Creston, British Columbia) to my mom. She's got a little trophy cabinet where she puts the pucks and the local newspaper clippings. There's not too many pucks in the case; I guess four or five. This one will mean the most."