The Washington Capitals tied the powerful New York Islanders yesterday - and felt lousy about it. A goal by New York's Jude Drouin with 1:47 remaining created the final 2.2 result, deflating the building victory crescendo from the majority party in the season's second largest Capital Centre crowd of 14,567.
The tie followed a depressing 2-l less to the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday night and prompted goalie Bernie Wolfe, the hero of the hour, day and week, to say, "We're in the National Hockey League to win games, not tie them. We were leading withless than two minutes to go at home, and we should have won."
Despite a successful penalty shot by Hartland Monahan, they didn't win because the Islanders, limited to 11 shots by a dazzling defensive effort over two periods, worried Wolfe with 16 in the final 20 minutes. Eventually, one got by.
Billy Harris spun free from the Capitals' Ron Lelonde in the corner and directed a perfect pass to Drouin in the slot. The shot was past Wolfe before defenseman Gordie Lane could knock Drouin off balance.
"We made four mistakes on one play," lamented Lelonde, whose go ahead goal five minutes earlier had provided so much promise. "I should have held the puck in the corner, and then we passed the puck around the boards and they kept it in. And I didn't cover him (Harris) in the corner and he made the pass.
"Sure, it's good to tie a team like that. But when the other team comes back and ties it, it's not the same. I think we outplayed them, and we deserved better over the weekend than one point."
If the Capitals did not outplay the Islanders, they certainly outworked them. New York coach A1 Arbour praised the Capitals, saying, "This (Washington) is the hardest working club in the league. They give 115 per cent. They're always working. And this is as fine goaltending as I've seen back to back. After a while I didn't think we'd put anything past him."
Wolfe declined the compliment, claiming, "Just because the goaltender does well, it really means the team is playing well. The forwards were coming back and the defensemen were clearing the puck. It's fun to play when guys are playing as well as they are. But it's a shame we only got one point. We deserved more."
Wolfe, knocked out of the lineup by polyneuritis early in the year, shut out Detroit on Monday and the chants of "Ber-nie, Ber-nie" filled Capital Centre as he made one improbable save after another.
In the first period there was little cheering from anyone. Washington was dominant, eight shots to three, but was betrayed by its power play, which has produced only one goal in 13 games and was victimized for its 13th shorthanded gift of the season.
Wolfe had foiled a breakaway by penalty-killing specialist Eddie Westfall moments before Westfall set up Lorse Henning in the left-wing circle and Henning's drive rippled the cords.
On a subsequent first-period Washington power play Westfall cut around point man Guy Charren and fired high and wide with Wolfe at his mercy. The inept extra-man effort prompted coach Tom McVie to pace behind the bench, kicking wood, and to say later, "That power play is enough to either make you commit suicide or start drinking again."
Referee Alf Lejeune saved the Capitals from further power-play embarrassment in the second period, calling a penalty shot after New York defenseman Dave Lewis used his stick to trip Hartland Monahan from behind with the net in sight.
Instead of the puck, it was Monahan's head that wound up in the net, and his left arm struck the goal post. But he arose, and swept down on New York goalie Chico Resch, who moved well out to nullify Monahan's potent slap shot.
Monahan cut left and adroitly flipped a backhand shot between the legs of the retreating Resch. It was the Capitals' third successful penalty shot in four tries - Steve Atkinson and Nelly Pyatt succeeded in Year One, Tommy Williams didn't - and that is a pretty lofty percentage. The league's rate of success during the first 10 years of expansion was only 29-3 per cent, on 22 of 75 tries.
It was Monahan's first penalty shot ever, and he said, "I asked Ronnie Low what to do and he told me, 'If he backs it, drill it. If he comes out and waits for you, it's up to you to make a move.' He came out and made a good move. When I saw what he did, I made my move. It's better for me as a righthand shot to go left, and I got the backhand between his legs."
"That's Hartland's favorite move in practice," Wolfe laughed. "But I stop him more than not."
The Islanders came out flying in the third period, a remarkable feat since both teams were bedded down about 3 a.m. after charter flights from New York. They were quietly aided by two penalties that left the Capitals two men short for 68 seconds.
Early in the period, the Capitals' Bill Riley whacked Drouin, exchanged verbal jabs and then slammed the Islander again. He reported referee Lejeune's comment as "Come on, don't get a penalty now."
But Lejeune was forced to act when the Capitals' Ace Bailey stepped on the ice during a line change and touched the puck before counterpart Tony White was benchbound. Rule (a), note 2, makes a penalty for too many men mandatory under those circumstances.
The Islanders increased the pressure, Wolfe made a phenomental stop on J.P. Parise's close-range deflection and Bryan Trottier fired te rebound wide. But defenseman Cord Smith hooked Bob Nystrom, so flagrantly that Lejeune again signaled penalty.
Washington has not permitted a power-play score in 11 games, but that record was severely tested in the ensuing 68 seconds. Wolfe blocked Trottier's shot, smothered Parise's rebound attempt, then reached out of a thick screen of players to grab Nystrom's drive.
Escaping disaster in that situation gave the Capitals a lift. They got a bigger one when Bill Collins evaded the Islanders' Bob Bourns inside the blue line and fed Lalonde in the slot. Despite the close attention of defenseman Bert Marshall, Lalonde took three whacks at the puck and finally lifted it past Resch.
"Billy's shot hit me on the thigh pad," Lalonde said, "and the deflection came back. I had three whacks at it and it finally went in. It never really hit the ground. I hit it out of the air."
Billy Torrey, Islanders' general manager, took some healthy chunks out of his fingernails before Drouin produced equality.
It was a most physical game, between two close-checking clubs, and their proximity during the 20-hour stretch, plus lack of sleep, created extra tensions. Still, only one snappy exchange resulted in fisticuffs.
New York's Garry Howatt, wearing a plastic shield to guard a fractured cheekbone, put a headlock on Washington's Mike Marson in the first period. Marson invited Howatt to doff his shield and fight fair, then removed it for him and pounded away.
Drouin, who cross checked Washington's Yvou Labre in the back of the neck in the second period, declined Riley's invitation to slug it out face to face in the third.
"I gave him a shot and he mouthed off and I asked him if he was untouchable," Riley said. "I was hoping to get something going. When you've got 14,000 people here, you want to do something to bring them back."
The Capitals did enough yesterday to created a lot of hockey fans.