The Washington Capitals climbed to the 60-point plateau last night with a 6-1 sprint past the Detroit Red Wings at Capital Centre.
Guy Charron scored his 36th goal in the game's second minute, Tony White connected for the third straight game while kneeing in the slot, Yvon Labre scored on a shorthanded rink-length dash and Jack Lynch converted a backhander to finish off another backline breakaway.
All those heroics made it 4-0 before Bill Lochead's deflection ruined Bernie Wolfe's shutout. Then Bob Sirois and Bill Collins padded the total to insure the Capitals' third straight victory and finish off a 20-goal barrage against three of the NHL's original six-man teams - Detroit, Toronto and New York Rangers.
Washington closed its season series against the Wings unbeaten, with three triumphs and three ties. The defeat extended Detroit's winless streak to 16 as its 50th anniversary season continued to be crowned with iron pyrite, rather than pure gold.
The game was actually decided before Detroit managed a shot a goal. When White connected at 4:47 of the first period, he was testing the Wings' Jim Rutherford for the sixth time, while Detroit shot total hung at zero. The Capitals' 20th shot, of a total of 33, brought them to the 2,000 figure for the first time.
The Capitals never have won four straight games, but they get another opportunity tonight in Pittsburgh. They already have won the season series from the Penguins, 3-1-1, so No. 4 is not beyond possibility.
The Wings copied the Capitals' unusual warmup procedures, complete with stops and starts, but once the puck srooped it was Rutherford against the world. He received no help from either a porous defense whose 298-goal yield is topped by none, or a feeble offense that has produced only two goals in the last 17 periods.
"We did all the work and all the skating," said Washington coach Tom McVie. "We were in their end all the time and Rutherford couldn't hold up forever. I feared overconfidence with Detroit coming in here-they hadn't won for a long time-but none was evident."
Charron, who added two assists to his opening goal, now has 79 points with three games remaining. He appeared to have a second goal, poking Sirois' long shot from the side boards, but the puck had crossed the goal line behind Rutherford before Charron touched it.
As the No. 3 star of the games, Charron broke a tie with Gerry Meehan and idle goalie Ron Low in the season compilation. He will receive a television set a Sunday's concluding home game against Montreal, by which time the cut on his right eyelid should be healed. He needed stitches after being grazed by a stick.
White, who had gone scoreless through 17 straight games before beginning his hot streak in Friday's 7-2 rout of the New York Rangers, credited his success to "playing a regular shift and playing with Guy (Charron). He moves the puck and I just try to position myself where I can put it in."
White was positioned in the slot, then knocked down before Charron could pass. But when the puck came, White handled it despite his handicap and lifted it over Rutherford.
Of his crowd-pleasing solo dash, on which Wolfe gained his first NHL assist, Labre said, "It was a good shot. I just used that last Detroit guy for a screen and he kept backing in. I kept slowing up and he kept backing up. I had lots of time. There was nobody around."
Labre finally fired from about 40 feet and Rutherford couldn't it.
Lynch came close to a second score, batting Ace Bailey's pass out of the air and then watching in disbelief as Rutherford made a diving save.
Bailey, despite an excellent game, wound up pointless. He appeared to have his 100th NHL goal at the midpoint of the second period, tapping the puck as it sat on the goal line, but referee Dave Newell had blown his whistle, thinking Rutherford was in control.
"I thought I had it," Bailey said. "I didn't hear the whistle. It was just about over the line as it was, but not quite."
The heat was almost unbearable in Capital Centre. But McVie noted that "I played three years in Phoenix, where it was 110 degrees, and I had some pretty good games."