QUEBEC CITY, NOV. 6 -- After a relatively prosperous start, the Quebec Nordiques had reverted to their woebegone selves of late and Terry Murray was worried.
The Washington Capitals' coach brought up the subject with reporters Monday when they didn't bring it up with him. But then maybe Murray worries too much.
The Capitals aren't good enough to have too easy a time with anybody, but right now they are stepping lively. Washington got two goals from Peter Bondra, a strong game from John Druce and several superb saves by Mike Liut to beat the Nordiques, 4-1, tonight in front of 13,027 at Le Colisee.
The victory pushed the Capitals' record to 10-7 and their winning streak to five games. That's the longest current run in the NHL and the longest for the Capitals since March 1989, when they put together eight in a row. Their last loss was the 9-4 assault in Calgary on Oct. 27.
"Reality sets in," Murray said of that loss, suggesting it has been inspiring. "You realize you've got to work hard every night. We're winning because we are playing well defensively."
The Capitals haven't allowed more than three goals since that loss. Tonight they were ahead 4-0 when the Nordiques scored with 5:20 left. It was Quebec's first goal in six periods and, after a 3-4-3 start, last season's worst NHL team has lost six straight.
"It seems with our team that we need goaltending and need to have the lead," Coach Dave Chambers said.
The Nordiques couldn't fault goalie Ron Tugnutt, but they never led in this one. The Capitals took a 2-0 lead on power-play scores by Steve Leach and Druce. Bondra then ensured the victory by first putting in a rebound of a Druce shot, then blistering a slap shot after stealing the puck in the Quebec end.
"He's got a lot of skill, but I think he's starting to understand the system and, most importantly, the defensive part of the game," Murray said of Bondra, who took a nasty slash on the knee late in the game.
Leach got it started by scoring his second goal of the season and first of consequence (his other came in that Calgary game). Mikhail Tatarinov got his first NHL point, an assist, on the play. Druce then converted Michal Pivonka's pass from the boards for a 2-0 lead with 9:17 left in the first period.
Liut did not have much work early, but after the Capitals took the 2-0 lead, he made a series of difficult saves. If it had become 2-1 or 2-2, then maybe this soaked-behind-the-ears Nordiques team would have turned some of its youthful enthusiasm into victory.
"It was tough up until then," Liut said. "You spend a lot of the evening talking to yourself, keeping yourself in the game. When you get a couple saves like that, it helps."
Liut would have had his 25th shutout, but Druce lost contact with Lucian Deblois for a moment and he scored from in tight late in the game.
"I felt bad because Mike played a really good game and I let down a little there," said Druce, who hesitated after switching men with Pivonka.
So Druce was not perfect, but he was pretty good. The goal was his eighth, tying his previous high for a season. Last year he had eight in 45 games. The eight goals are the most on the team, and with three points tonight he retook the team lead with 17 points.
It was the sort of performance that makes two days off seem like good preparation, for that is what Druce had. He jammed his right wrist in Saturday's 5-2 victory against the New York Islanders. The team was off Sunday, but when the pain didn't subside, Druce was sent to a team doctor on Monday. The X-ray and bone scans proved negative, but they took most of the day.
"I sort of wish I had skated yesterday," Druce said. "I felt better in the third period than I did in the first. Rest is as good as practice sometimes. We just got done with a rough road trip, really a rough October."
The end of it was very good and the team is 3-0 in November. Murray thought Druce made the key play on Bondra's goal, carrying the puck out of the corner, challenging a defenseman. Bondra put in the rebound, though the Nordiques argued that Tugnutt had kept it out of the net.
"John is really developing as a player, mentally," Murray said. "The toughness is there, knowing that you have to play with some pain sometimes."