Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Bernie Wolfe threw up his stick at game's end and you could almost see his smile through the goalie mask. The 5-foot-9, 160-pounder blocked 26 Detroit shots tonight and recorded his first National Hockey League shutout as the Washington Capitals exulted in a 2-0 victory.
"I'm really excited," Wolfe said, after he had placed his contact lenses safely away. "The team played so well. Seriously, I couldn't remember a hard shot all night. The shots were coming from far out."
Indeed, Wolfe had a lot of help. Bryan Warson, returning to Olympia for the first time since Detroit dealt him away, was superb in clearing the slot and killing penalties. Gord Smith left Detroit players lying all over the ice in a marvelous exhibition of checking. Yvon Labre scored his first goal of the season. Bill Collins netted his third, with Washington shorthanded.
But in the dressing room the Wolfe man was the object of all attention as his teammates chanted. "Way to go, Bernie, way to go." This has been a long, unhappy season for Wolfe, last year's Capital Centre hero who suffered from polyneuritis early in the season and has watched Ron Low get most of the playing time. To Wolfe's credit, he never complained about his lack of work.
"Ronnie is playing as well as any goaltender in the NHL," Wolfe said. "We pull for each other. We're a team. As long as Ronnie is hot as a firecracker, you can't change goalies."
Wolfe was playing tonight because the Capitals face Boston Tuesday night at Capital Centre and Low has played all 13 of the Capitals' previous clashes with the Bruins. Now, possibly, coach Tom McVie will look the other way, toward No. 30.
The shutout was only the second in the Capitals' history, Low having blanked Kansas city at Capital Centre, 3-0, Feb. 16, 1975. But Wolfe was aware of it after the first period. When you get through one period, you think you can get two more. But last year I had a shutout late in the game here in Detroit and they scored, and that was running through my mind."
Watson, greeted by a sign the read. We Still Love Ya Bugsy," found himself in the penal ty box for high sticking after just 2:22. While he was off, Ron Lalonde poked the puck loose to Collins as the two penalty killers risked forechecking deep behind the Detroit net.
Collins sent a deflected pass to Gordie Lane at the right point. Goalie Jim Rutherford blocked lane's shot, but Collins metted the rebound at 2:38 for the Capital's fifth shorthanded score of the season.
Late in the second period, Labre knocked the puck down with his glove in the slot. Rutherford blocked his shot, sprawled and saw Labre life the puck over him. Three other Red Wings - Al Cameron, Rick Wilson and Buster Harvey - were left scattered around the goal as the fans jeered.
The crowd, officially termed 7,213 but actually no more than 3,000 on a snowy night, hooted the struggling Wings from the time they skated out for the warmup. It made a vistor wonder why they would venture out in such miserable weather to see something they disliked so much.
The rare cheers were reserved for each announcement of a minute remaining in a period. And there was applause for Watson, who commented. "The fans didn't trade me."
Watson was so excited a week ago when the teams met at Capital Centre that he was something of a liability in that 2-2 tie. He was strictly a plus factor tonight.
"The first period of that first game at home, I was really nervous." Watson said. "I was trying to do too much, running around and getting the whole team upset. Tonight I was still nervous, but I was confident. It was a hell of a team effort. Not many guys get to go back into their old rink and win decisively."
Smith flattened Nick Libett, Dennis Polomich, Dennis Hextall, jim Nahrgang and Michael Bergeron with adept checks. It was a remarkable body-belting effort by a 5-foot-10, 175-pounder.
"They were trying to deke me," Smith said, "and give me the shift. They just happened to come into me."
Detroit just can't seem to beat the Capitals, having won only one of the teams' last seven meetings. The result tonight left the Wings only one point ahead of Washington in the battle for fourth place in the Norris Division.
The Wings played a physical game despite the absence of intimidator Dan Maloney with a shoulder injury. But the Capitals were physical, too, and only on rare occasions did the Wings penetrate into prime shooting terrtory.