The Detroit Red Wings gave Coach Brad Park a going-away present to remember tonight. The Red Wings, owners of the NHL's sorriest record, routed the Washington Capitals, 7-0, for their first shutout in 150 games.
Rookie goaltender Mark LaForest stopped 26 shots to post his first NHL shutout and rookie winger Chris Cichocki scored twice in the last game Park may coach until Feb. 16. He now must serve a six-game suspension imposed by the NHL for ordering his team to leave the bench in Toronto Jan. 13.
On a night when few people had much enthusiasm for fun and games, the Capitals displayed less than most in suffering what Coach Bryan Murray called the worst loss in his 4 1/2 seasons in Washington. They put no forechecking pressure on the poorest defense in the NHL, had difficulty clearing the puck from their end and gave goaltender Al Jensen virtually no protection.
"When we had the big fight in Toronto, that was not intelligent hockey," Park said. "Tonight was intelligent hockey. Everybody was thinking, covering for each other, playing the way I've been telling them to play. If the players realize now they're not bad hockey players, we can reap some benefits."
Although giving Detroit full credit, Murray could not believe what he was watching.
"We did nothing at all," Murray said. "In Minnesota, we played one of our best games of the season. Then we came in here and for two shifts we were okay. Then we went to sleep and they jumped all over us.
"There was no reason to be so flat and to let ourselves be abused like that. They pushed us all over the rink. (Goaltender) Al (Jensen) played well early or it would have been out of reach after 10 or 15 minutes."
The Capitals actually were the first to put the puck in the net. LaForest fumbled a long shot by Kevin Hatcher and Craig Laughlin was able to poke the puck over the line. However, as Laughlin shot, referee Andy Van Hellemond blew his whistle, thinking LaForest had control of the puck.
"It was loose, sitting under his stick," Laughlin said. "I just knocked it in and he says he blew the whistle. But that's the way the night went. Nothing went right."
Detroit went ahead to stay 2 1/2 minutes later, Steve Yzerman scoring from the slot off a feed from Warren Young. It was the Red Wings' only goal on 15 first-period shots.
Things got out of hand in the second period, after Jensen made two sensational saves while Detroit was shorthanded. Ron Duguay, John Ogrodnick, Greg Smith and Cichocki scored for the Red Wings, frequently skating in unmolested.
After the second period, Murray gave his charges a verbal roasting and they came out loaded for bear.
Detroit winger Joe Kocur had departed early with a twisted right knee, no doubt a key factor in the lack of foul play over the first two periods, which were marred by only five minor penalties. The third period was something else, as Van Hellemond called 19 penalties for 91 minutes.
Washington captain Rod Langway, jumped from behind by Lane Lambert after he rode Claude Loiselle into the boards, twice fought Loiselle thereafter.
Lou Franceschetti was given double majors for cross checking and fighting after a run-in with Randy Ladouceur that saw the Detroit defenseman chased for seven minutes.
Most frustrated of all was Scott Stevens, who was ejected without fighting anyone. Stevens was given his first game misconduct of the season for complaining because Van Hellemond refused to call a penalty when Alan Haworth was pulled down.
"He wanted a penalty on Haworth and I said Haworth flipped (took a dive) on me," Van Hellemond said. "He used some swear words and I gave him two. He kept it up and I gave him 10. Then he went to the Detroit box and tried to get one of their guys involved in something, so he went."
LaForest and Jensen drew the starting assignments in goal because of injuries to the designated men, Ed Mio and Pete Peeters. Mio suffered a groin pull in Monday's practice and Peeters pulled a stomach muscle.
"I figured after the skating drill yesterday that I might play," said LaForest, who entered the game with a 2-13 record and a 5.20 goals-against average. "Eddie took an extra stride and popped it.
"Everything felt good for me tonight. The guys were clearing them out and it was so much easier to see the puck and control it. This means a lot to me . . . "
LaForest's best save came against Mike Gartner at the finish of a two-on-one with Bob Carpenter late in the second period. He also foiled Gartner on a breakaway in the third.
Jensen went through a hard morning workout today in preparation for Wednesday's game in Toronto, then learned afterward that Peeters was incapacitated.
"Detroit played well. Give them credit," Jensen said. "It was one of those nights."