Newest Cap does the job on defense

January 23, 1995|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun Staff Writer

QUEBEC -- It didn't take long for Washington's new defenseman, Mark Tinordi, to make an impression.

"It's just one game," he said. "We'll have to wait and see to find out the whole story."

But in Washington's first game of the season, Saturday night in Hartford, Conn., it didn't take long to get an idea of what the future may hold.

Tinordi and Calle Johansson played soldily all night and combined with Sylvain Cote, Jim Johnson, Joe Reekie and John Slaney to hold the Whalers to one shot over the last 13 minutes of regulation and five-minute overtime in the game that ended in a 1-1 tie.

Tinordi, 6 feet 4 and 210 pounds, showed no qualms about leveling good, clean hits.

And when the puck was sliding toward the Caps net on Geoff Sanderson's power-play goal, Tinordi never hesitated, taking a nose-first dive to the ice in a last-ditch effort to make a block.

"When I learned how to play hockey, I guess I couldn't skate," he said, laughing after yesterday's high-energy practice, in which everyone played two-on-two, sprinting and then dropping to the ice for push-ups, preparing for tomorrow night's game with the Nordiques.

"Really, I guess you're just born to play a certain way, and then in juniors, the coach I had was an old-school coach. Kind of a tough guy," said Tinordi, recalling his years with Lethbridge of the Western Hockey League. "We didn't have any finesse guys. It was just grind it out and play tough, hit and move the puck. I did that for five years. That's how I learned."

When he first came into the NHL, as a free agent with the New York Rangers in 1987, his job was to fight.

"That's what they wanted and that's what I did, but I didn't like it," he said. "Oh, I'll fight when I get angry, when it's a natural occurrence. But I hated being told to just go out and get in a fight. It isn't my nature."

He was happy when the Rangers traded him to Minnesota, where the team was young and he was able to grow into a different, more productive and less violent, role.

"It was really a relief to be given the chance in Minnesota to grow into a real hockey player," he said.

There were a few roughing calls on the Capitals and the Whalers on Saturday, but none involved Tinordi.

"We kept it simple," said Johansson. "I think that's what he wanted to do in the first game. He stayed home and played solid defense and we read off each other very well."

For Tinordi, playing with Johansson was a treat. Noting Johansson's skating and puck-handling ability, Tinordi promised the combination would only get better.

"It takes a lot of pressure off me because his game is built for that, for handling the puck," Tinordi said. "He plays physically, too, but all I had to do was to move the puck up and get things going."

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