TReprinted from yesterday's late editions.
"If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh?if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?"
- Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice.
A fortnight ago, the Washington Capitals were pricked and bloodied, tickled and laughed at, poisoned, left for dead, and thoroughly wronged at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens. Last night they got revenge.
In an emotional game before 18,130 aroused spectators at Capital Centre, the surprising Caps beat Toronto, 4-2. These were the same Maple Leafs who had humiliated the Caps, 10-0, on Feb. 12 in what coach Tom McVie called "the absolute low point of our season."
Neither Gerry Meehan, who scored the eventual game, winner at 14:53 of the second period, nor McVie, who said this was "the kind of game that makes all the frustration worthwhile," wanted to call it Sweet Revenge, but at least it was heady vindication.
"We wanted to win tonight, but I would'nt call it a revenge thing," McVie said outside the jubilant Cap's dressing room. "We just showed that it's tough to be beaten if you refuse tobe beaten. I'd say the one word that sums it up is determination."
"The only way to get revenge would be beat 'em by the same score," said Meehan, who joined Guy Charron and Hartland Monahan as 20-goal scorers, the first time in their three-year history the Caps have had three players reach that milestone. It was also Meehan's second game-winning goal in as many games and sixth of the season.
"We were'nt thinking, that way. We did'nt want to go out and throw it to the winds to try to score 10 goals. We just wanted to play a good. solid, up-and-down forechecking game and come out with a victory," said the hero.
That, they did, to the delight of this season's third sellout crowd, the eight in the club's brief history. The Capitals head to Pittsburgh tonight seeking a third straight victory and a second five days against the penguins.
Meehan - Toronto native who has strung together 11 goals and 15 assists in his last 18 games - hit the game-winner from the middle of the right faceoff circle on a pretty pass from Craig Patrick, who was heading from the corner.
Meehan slipped the puck past Toronto goalkeeper Mike Palmteer.
Right wing Bill Riley sealed the victory for the Caps with a power-play goal at 14:01 of the final period. Guy Charron, the Caps' 30-goal center, charged down the right side and took a quick shot. Riley fired in the rebound, up and under the crossbar.
That was ultimate reward for the Washington power play, which had kept pressure on Palmateer earlier but produced no goals, only excrusiatingly near misses.
Ron Low, the former Toronto goaltender who was the victim of the five of the 10 Maple Leafs goal in the slaughter two weeks ago, stopped 26 of 28 shots this time. Some of his saves were acrobatic, but his mates gave him strong support.
Meehan, Low and Patrick were voted the three stars for the game, but McVie saw it differently. "If I was picking the stars, they would have been (Ron) Lalonde, (Bill) Collins, and (Tony) White, not in that particular order," he said.
"They checked (Darryl) Sittler's line, which could be the toughest line inthe league. They did a hell of a job. We're trying to put an aggressive hockey club together, and tonight we were."
The victory helped keep alive the resurgent Caps' playoff aspirations. They entered the game nine points behind Los-Angeles, their third-place rivals in the Norris division race. The Caps have 16 games remaining, 10 at home, The Kings play 20 more, 12 on the road, including Tuesday evenings' critical encounter at Capital Center.
The Caps never trailed in the highly charged game, which was physical for the first two periods, less so in the third as both teams looked exhausted.
There was only one fight, at 2:12 of the opening period Toronto's Dave Williams, who leads the league in penalty minutes, went after the Caps' Blair Stewart.
The officials moved quickly to break it up, when Williams shoved his stick in the air there were several spinoff battles, the best of which was Stewart versus Ian Turnbull, the 6-foot, 200-pounder who scored a record of five goals in a 9-1 rout of Detroit three weeks ago.
Stewart hitting on the clinch, got in several good rabbit punches and went to the penalty box for five minutes for roughing. Williams and Mohanan two minutes each for high sticking.
That left the Caps shorthanded for three minutes, and during that time they showed the determination McVie talked about, Their penalty killing was supurb, and it was obvious they were begruding nothing to Toronto's offensive juggernaut, which had scored 42 goals in its last eight games.
Patrick put them ahead 8:39 of the first period with a backhander from 25 feet out on the left slot, assisted by Meehan and Jack Lynch.
After Inge Hammarstrom had evened the game at 13:09 of the first period. He flashed down the left side, passed to Lalonde on the right, took the return pass, hesitated, and backhanded a 25-footer past Palmateer.
Defensemen Brian Glennie tied it with first goal of the season at 13:13 of the second from 20 feet straight out in front.
The Maple Leafs missed the injured Borje Slaming, who trails teamate Ian Turnbull by just two points in scoring for NHL defensemen.