BLOOMINGTON, MINN., FEB. 21 -- When Clint Malarchuk blanked the Minnesota North Stars Saturday night to give the Washington Capitals their sixth straight victory, he became the first NHL goaltender to record back-to-back shutouts since . . . Clint Malarchuk.

The man with the crewcut, known to his teammates as Mallard, stopped 29 shots in Washington's 6-0 triumph at Winnipeg Friday, then blocked 33 in the 3-0 victory here.

That was almost identical to his effort as a member of the Quebec Nordiques in 1985, when he made 27 saves in a 3-0 decision at Boston Nov. 28, then handled 33 shots in beating the Bruins, 2-0, at Quebec Nov. 30.

Although consecutive shutouts are as rare as a goaltender who quacks during practice sessions, two Capitals accomplished the feat during the 1983-84 season. Like Malarchuk, they did it on the road.

Al Jensen stopped a combined 44 shots at Pittsburgh (1-0) Oct. 25 and New Jersey (2-0) Oct. 26. Pat Riggin needed only 38 saves to blank Toronto (8-0) Jan. 28 and New Jersey (2-0) Feb. 2.

Riggin ran up a club-record shutout streak of 203 minutes 52 seconds over four games, while Jensen was stopped at 154:06. That was the season they shared the Jennings Trophy as the goaltenders of the best defensive team in the NHL.

Malarchuk's current string is at 127:30 and his 3.10 goals-against mark, combined with Pete Peeters' league-leading 2.62, promises to bring Washington another Jennings award in April.

Malarchuk had been winless for five weeks when he relieved the ailing Peeters after one period on Wednesday and played superbly to beat New Jersey, 4-3. The two shutouts followed.

Asked to explain his sudden success, Malarchuk replied, "You get hot just like a goal scorer. Sometimes every time a guy touches a puck it goes in. With me, it's staying out. In any sport, it's that way when a guy gets on a roll.

"Concentration and confidence are the main things I'm playing with right now. I have the feeling I'm going to stop every shot that comes my way. That's confidence. And I'm locked right in on the puck and everything around me. That's concentration."

Malarchuk was able to perform so well after an 11-day layoff because, in addition to providing comic moments at practice, he works very hard.

"We talk about that -- being ready," said Warren Strelow, the goaltender coach and Minnesota native who joined Bryan Murray behind the bench Saturday night. "We talk about working hard in practice, especially when you're not playing, so that when your chance comes, you'll be ready to play. I actually spend more time with the guy who isn't playing."

Murray prefers to stick with a hot goalie, rather than alternate the two, so it is not unusual for one or the other to go two weeks without a start. On some teams, this would be a problem, but Peeters and Malarchuk, both Edmonton natives, are very supportive of each other.

"I've had some physical problems and it's been good to have Clint to take over," Peeters said. "You have competitiveness between us, but you pat each other on the back, too.

"I'm still feeling sick in the stomach. It's a virus, because Laurie {his wife} and my children have had it, too. About the only thing that's helped the last week has been Clint and the team playing so well."

If the games are no fun for Peeters, the same does not hold for Malarchuk and the rest of the Capitals.

"The one thing we're doing, we're having fun," Malarchuk said. "That goes with winning. We're getting some goals {29 in six games} and that takes pressure off the goalie. Before we couldn't let any in, because we knew that could mean the game."

Capitals Notes:

The fun should accelerate Monday, because the team is scheduled for a golf tournament at La Quinta Country Club, outside Palm Springs, Calif. Eight players took it seriously enough to ship their clubs ahead . . . The Capitals' next game is Wednesday in Los Angeles, against a team they have beaten, 10-3, and 8-3 . . . The longest winning streak in the NHL this season is seven, accomplished by Boston, Philadelphia and St. Louis . . . Mike Gartner has seven goals in the last five games.