The Washington Capitals set a club record for penalties today. They also claimed an unofficial mark for missing great scoring chances, but help from an unexpected source, the power play, provided a 3-3 tie with the Detroit Red Wings.
All of Washington's goals came in extra-man situations and Gerry Meehan's second of the game, with only uations and Gerry Meehan's second of the game, with only 1:22 to play, created the final score.
The Capitals never could have hung that close without some amazing goal-tending by Roger Crozier and Bernie Wolfe.
Crozier, three days short of his 35th birthday, played his first game since Dec. 22, 1975. He stopped 29 of 31 Detroit shots durint the first two periods before acknowledging weariness. Wolfe then blocked 11 in the final 20 minutes, yielding only a goal by Nick Libet while the Red Wings enjoyed the second two-man advantage of the period.
"Roger was unbelievable," said Meehan, declining the hero's mantle. "We couldn't seem to get it out of our own end, but he ketp stopping everything. He made eight or nine point-blank stops from the top for the circle. What a performance!"
Only about 5,000 fans - the usual inflated announced crowd was 8,617 - were lured to the Olympia by T-shirt Day. The way the Wings play it's no wonder - they've won three games this year, are winless in their last eight and seem to prefer fighting to hockey. "Anybody who stayed away from this one missed a great show by Roger Crozier," said Washington coach Tom McVie. "He proved to me why he played in this league when there were only six teams. He really showed me he could play goal."
"That's how you really get in shape," laughed Crozier, who acknowledged that he could "no longer challenge the shooters" when McVie asked his feelings about playing the third period.
Polonich received five minors and a fighting major in the game, more than a quarter of the Wings' 58 minutes. Washington was assessed 69, erasing the team mark of 49 set earlier this year against Los Angeles. The total of 127 topped the combined record of 121 set in a Detroit game at Capital Centre a year ago.
The Wings' string of unsuccessful power plays reached 54 before Libett deflected a Bergeron shot with 5:53 left. It came with Labre serving a major for high sticking Polonich and Bailey off for tripping Dennis Hextall. The call on Bailey sent McVie searching the heavens for guidance.
But if referee Alf Lejeune seemed to be giving Washington the short end of his stick, he made two calls that proved most helpful to the visitors.
With Washington leading, 2-1, in the second period, Crozier gloved a Hextall shot and then lost possession into the net. Lejeune blew his whistle too quickly - the book calls for a three-second wait - and the goal could not count.
Late in the game, the third of three separate brawls within 14 seconds of officials time began when Tony White, hooked from behind by Bergeron, turned and swung his stick at the Red Wing, then began punching him. Although Lejeune had not signaled a penalty on Bergeron before White's response, the Wing drew an extra minor, as well as a gross misconduct for pulling White's hair.
It was on the ensuing power play that Meeham scored from the right-wing circle with the game-tying goal.