Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
The bottom has fallen out and I just can't explain it," Washington Capital coach Tom McVie said tonight, moments after his team had sufferred its most humiliating defeat of the season," 10-0, to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Capitals helped the Leafs celebrate their 50th anniversy by rolling over and playing dead in a rout that was all the more embarrassing because the game was beamed coast-to-coast on Canadian television.
For the Capitals, this clearly was the lowest point of the 1976-77 season, a year filled with talk of playoffs as the Capitals have to start talking about survival.
"There was no resistance out there, none," said McVie, who said he will try and get his team together again Sunday afternoon for a practice that surely is going to knock their socks off.
"It's a total thing, everybody from the equipment manager to the head coach is struggling right now. If I knew the answer, it wouldn't have happened. We realize we have to work hard every shift of every game. Now, we've stopped doing that, we've quit working. If that contiunes, we're not going to win a thing."
THe Capitals allowed a season high in goals tonight, and the margin of defeat was the largest of the season; the previous makr had been set two nights earlier in the 9-2 drubbing at the hands of the philadelphia Flyers.
The Capitals, who were 6-6-4 in Janurary, have not won in February. The best part of tonight's lopsided affair was the final buzzer signaling the end of the six-game Capital road trip. Washington tied two and lost four.
Tonight, the Leafs had everything their own way. The Capitals let them skate all over the ice and allowed them to park in the crease for numerous second and third chances. The score was 5-0 after one period against Bernie Wolfe, and McVie pulled him in favor of Ron Low.
Low, the former Leaf, made a half-dozen brilliant saves against his old team to keep down the score in the second period, but Toronto, as Washington general manager Max McNab put it "played tic-tac-toe on us. It was disastrous."
All but three of the Toronto skaters posted points tonight. Lanny McDonald, the Leafs' leading-goal scorer, had two goals and two assists, while left wing Inge Hammarstrom, the No. 1 star of the game, had a goal tender, had 30 Capital shots come his e rookie Leaf goal tender, had 30 Capital shots come his way stopped three breakaways and and posted the third National Hockey League shutout of his career.
The Leafs had 37 shots on Wolfe-Low, 15 in the second period.
McVie could only shake his head when it was over and wonder what has happened to his hockey team. He had no difficulty pinning down the precise moment of the Capitals' sudden swan dive.
"That last period in Chicago," he said, referring to Wednesday night's 4-4 tie against the Black Hawks. "In the space of something like six minutes, we went from a 4-1 lead to a tie. From then on, it's been all bad.
The Capitals will return to their home ice Tuesday nightagainst Minnesota. If they can survive the next two practices, that is.