Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Tom McVie decided yesterday that he would not coach Team Canada in the World Ice Hockey Championships. Last night he must have been wondering whether he really wanted to coach the Washington Capitals.
The crowd of 7,374 at Capital Centre, some chanting "Re-fund," deserved its money back after watching the Cleveland Barons skate through and around the Capitals, 5-1. Instead, the fans received, as a result of a guranteed-win loss, the opportunity to watch the Capitals again, Friday night against Colorado.
If they muffle their disgruntlement and return, they are likely to see more skilled and spirited play from their temporarily scorned heroes. They could hardly see less.
"We didn't put up any resistance against Cleveland," McVie said. "Our hockey club refused to work. You beat Cleveland by forcing them in their end and they walked out of their end all night.
We've had lots of meetings about playing the season right through. If they think things are going to change, they'd better forget it. I'm going to work even harder and so are they. I get paid for winning and they get paid for winning."
The crowd was in a dissatisfied mood from the pregame warmup, booing referee Alf Lejeune from the time he appeared, an indication that the radio broadcast of Sunday's 3-3 tie in Detroit was widely received.
The Capitals quickly became a target of displeasure, too, managing only 10 shots on goal in the first two periods and falling hopelessly behind at 5-0 before Craig Patrick broke the shutout dream of Cleveland goalie Gilles Meloche.
Management was not immune from spectator displeasure. Some fans unhappy with Blair Stewart's demotion to Springfield raised huge signs that read "It's Unfair Not to Play Blair" and "We Love '23' Not McVie!"
The Capitals extended their winless streak to five games in their difficult search for victory No. 20. They lost all five meetings with Cleveland, three on home ice, and made another dubious record read four guranteed win nights without one.
Last year the players complained that guranteed win promotions placed too much pressure on them, but there was no evidence that it had much effect this time. It seems more likely that, with playoff incentive gone, there is nothing more to be wrung from an undertalented team that produced the utmost possible effort for seven-eighths of the season.
If the game was forgettable from a competitive standpoint, it was memorable for a pugilistic encounter. Washington center Gerry Meehan, playing his 566th NHL game, received his third career major penalty and his lifetime penalty total climbed to 101 minutes.
Meehan, rammed into the boards by Cleveland's Ralph Klassen with seven minutes left, responded with an elbow and some fair punches.
"He took a pretty good shot at me with my back turned," said Meehan, who recalled that his other NHL fights had been against Don Saleski and Dan Maloney. "I caught him with an elbow as he backed away. There was a lot of frustration. I imagine under differet circumstances I might have let it go.
"It was a frustrating game all around. That team seems to skate and free wheel against us. I guess we don't do enough to discourage them. Meloche is very confident. He just stands at the top of the crease and says, "Shoot it, I'll stop it.'"
Meloche made the necessary saves before his teammates sent Bernie Wolfe to an early shower. In the first period he slid across the goal mouth to foil a breakaway by Jack Lynch. Later Ace Bailey, harassed by Bob Stewart on a semibreak, dropped a gorgeous pass to Guy Charron, who lost control as he tried to deke Meloche.