Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
An illogical penalty against Gerry Meehan for unsportsmanlike conduct turned the Washington Capitals into skating maniaes in the third period last night, but the awakening came too late to avert a 5-2 loss to the Bostom Bruins.
Boston scored twice in a horribly one-sided second period, widened tis margin to 3-0 midway through the third and hung on to move within one point of first-place Buffalo in the tight Adams Division race.
For Washington, it meant a sudden end of the jubilation that welcomed that 2-0 victory in Detroit Monday night. Instead, if was an unhappy beginning of a two-week stretch in games the upcoming schedule lists two games against the New York Islanders, two against Montreal and another against Buffalo.
The Capitals one millionth home fan was among the crowd of 9,123 that prepared to dash to the icy parking lots after Don Marcotte's conversion of a Peter McNab pass made it 3-0 with 8:38 remaining.
With 6:16, left, Rick Bragnalo ended Gerry Cheevers' shutout bid by scoring his ninth goal off Bob Sirois setup from the corner. It was consolation sorts for the crowd, a bit of spur for the struggling home side.
The Meehan won a faceoff, carried the puck over the Boston blue line and heard a whistle. he screamed at the linesman, who signalled a "tech" for unsportmanlike conduct and was upheld by referee John McCauley.
"I couldn't believe it," said Meehan, who had received only one minor penalty all season. "I thought I won the draw fair and square and when he blew the whistle, I just said, "Open your eyes, there's no way that could be offside." Then he signals the T. They were taking a lot worse than that from the other side all night."
That two-minute sentence could have ended everything but the penalty-killing crew, led by Ron Lalonde and Bill Collins, has not allowed a power-pay goal in nine games. It didn't permit one this time, either.
Instead, Ace Bailey poked the puck free in Boston ice and defenseman Yuon Labre skated madly into the slot to rap it past Cheevers. It was Labre's second goal in two nights and Washington's second shorthanded score in two games.
More than four minutes remained after Labre's effort and 2:33 was left on the clock when Meehan was freed from servitude. The Capitals had an excellent chance when Gord Lane skated in from the right point and prove a hard shot toward the net, but it went wide of the far post.
Goalie Ron Low was lifted for a sixth Washington skater with 48 seconds remaining and play was largely confined to Boston ice after the Bruins were called for icing with 33 seconds to play.
Guy Charron, harassed by defenseman Rick Smith, was unable to shoot with the puck in the slot. It skidded to Meehan near the post at Cheevers' left and Meehan got off a last shot that Cheevers repelled, before a pileup halted play with 11 seconds left. Jean Ratelle won the ensuing draw from Lalonde and the outcome was assured.
"The puck was boucning around there," Meehan said of those hectic closing seconds. I got a shot from a weak angle, but he stopped it, and ten I tried to get it to Guy. They smothered it.
"It was the second period that killed us again. They sent five men in and we couldn't get out of our end to save our lives."
The foreheeking Bruins outshot the Capitals, 13-3, in the middle period, and in the first 10 minutes they buzzed around Low so frequently it seemed just a matter of time before the scoreless deadlock would end.
The big break came at the other end as Bailey was unable to handle Charron's backward pass from the goal line. It was picked up by Wayne Cashman, who ignited a two-on-one break with Earl Anderson. When Cashman shot wide, the rebound came to Anderson and he didn't miss.
Only 37 seconds remained in the period when Bobby Schmautz escaped Meehan's hook to lift a second-effort shot over Low. The goalie was so angry he swung his stick, narrowly missing mcCauley's head.
Although McCauley allowed some questionable contact - lending futher absurdity to Meehan's penalty - the manhandling erupted in only two fights.
In the first, Boston's Terry O'Reilly worked over Washington's Bryan Watson. In the second, the Capitals' Bill Riley pounded the Bruins' Gary Doak.
Cheevers was involved in as much contact as anyone. He came out three times to black shots by unguarded Capitals - Hartland Monahan, Tony White and Meehan. Each was dumped and only White managed to get off much of a shot, one that was deflected wide by the defense. Cheevers drewa tripping penalty on that one.