The Washington Capitals and their backers in a crowd of 12,228 spent a frustrating, painful afternoon in Capital Centre yesterday. The Capitals managed only 22 shots on goal and were trampled by the Buffalo Sabres, 6-2.
The most pained of the Capitals was their captain, defenseman Yvon Labra, who was ejected from the contest in the 22d minute for accumulating three major penalties. The automatic game misconduct lifted his day's total to 29 minutes, a club record.
Labre's exit came with Washington trailing, 3-2, and building momentum. In fact, it followed a testing shot by Labre that goalie Don Edwards barely managed to deflect wide of the post.
After the shot, Buffalo's Danny Gare checked Labre from behind and Labre responded by planting his stick in the Sabre's stomach. They parried stick thrusts for a while, then Gare turned away. All the stick action was missed by referee Gregg Madill and it was not until play had stopped, and Gare had charged into Labre, that the referee became aware of the exchange.
Linesman Gerard Gautheir reported Labre's spearing to Madill and Labre was assessed a major panelty leaving Washington shothanded for five minutes.
Each player also received a fighting major, matching similar first-period sentences, so Labre was through and unable to help kill the lenghty shorthanded situation.
Baffalo owns the NHL's third best power play, so the Capitals were perhaps fortunate that only one goal, right wing Jim Lorentz' rebound of a Rene Robert drive, occurred during the ensuing five minutes. It was enough, however, to destroy the Capitals' momentaum. Then Gil Perreault's second goal of the game, with four minutes left in the period, ended any hopes of a Washington victory.
"I got what I deserved, but he didn't," Labre said afterward."I speared him. But I did it after he gave me a shot in the back. He hurt me enough to make me want to get back at him. I don't know, but if it was, it was an awful hard glove.
"There's a lump under there now, and it's killing me. I didn't want to really hurt him, not like I put my stick through him or anything. But it's not something I'm proud of."
Labre has been playing with a painful sprained ankle and conceded that "I've been boiling over a bit. Whenever I get hit on the ankle, it really pains me."
Gare finished the game but afterward he experienced difficulty removing his uniform. He displayed a fearsome welt across his shoulder and said, "He got me in the chin in that first fight and then he got me in the stomach, too." Gare denied using his stick on Labre to start the second scuffle.
"I'm certainly not upset with Labre about taking that penalty," said Washington coach Tom McVie. "The linesman called the penalty. I didn't evn see it. I thought he was calling offside."
If Labre was hurting physically, wringer Hartland Monahan was smoldering mentally. Monahan scored a split second after the final buzzer and, when the goal was disallowed following a conversation between Madill and goal judge Ed Pantalone, Monahan slammed his stick against the glass and screamed at Pantalone. For that act, Monahan was assessed a meaningless minor for unsportsman-like conduct.
Actually, the day's fist frustrations were visited upon the visitors. The Sabres did not get a shot on goal for almost six minutes and, on their first-power play opportunity, yielded a shorthanded goal to ex-Buffalo captain Gerry Meehan, his 25th score of the season.
The game turned around in eight seconds. Don Luce came around from behind the Washington net and fired the puck from an impossible angle. It struck goalie Ron Low's stick and deflected behind him. Off the ensuing face off, right wing Gary McAdam raced away from Craig Patrick and beat Low on a breakway.The goals, coming eight seconds apart, were the fatest pair ever scored against Washington.
Perreault, despite Gord Smith's close checking, converted Terry Martin's pass out of the corner for a third goal, just 1:56 after the second, and Buffalo seemed to be breezing to its two-point lead over Boston in that torrid Adams Division race.
The Capitals flew out of the dressing room for the second period, however, and Ace Bailey came from behind the Buffalo net to beat goalie Don Edwards after only 39 seconds. Then Labre came so clost to a tie, and instead wound up fit to be tied.