The season tickets for tonight's game between the Montreal Canadians and Washington Capitals were dated Sunday, April 3, and there were many empty seats in those sections of the Forum.
There was some questions whether the Capitals ever arrived, either. The Canadiens scored on three of their first four shots and breezed to an 11-0 victory that extended their record home unbeaten streak to 34 games.
It also made a mockery of Washington's four-game victory string, but the Capitals at least have an immediate opportunity to make amend. The same teams meet Sunday night at Capital Centre at 7:30 in the regular-season finale.
Steve Shutt and Guy Lapointe each scored twice, Shutt's season total reaching 59, an NHL record for a left wing. Lapointe has 25, not a bad figure for a defenseman. Guy Lafleur, busy feeding linemate Shutt most of the night, collected four points to boost his league-leading total to 135.
The shutout was the property of Ken Dryden, his 10th of the season and third against Washington. Bernie Wolfe a Montreal native, started in the Capitals' net and yielded seven goals on 14 shots, those three early scores and four more in the first 3:04 of the third period, before Ron Low was summoned for his second relief chore of the night.
The goals came so fast in the third period, four within only 1:37 of elpased time and seven in all, that even the Canadiens lost count.
"Does that 10 goals tonight break the record for one season?" defense man Larry Robinson asked afterward. Robinson was on the ice for five scores, lifting his incredible performance rating to plus 121 for the season.
"I don't think we can expect the same thing tomorrow night," Robinson said, after learning the Canadiens were still 14 goals shy of Boston's mark of 399. "They've been playing well and they're tough at home."
Shutt admitted he was thinking about scoring, hoping to top Bobby Hull's record of 58 for a left wing set in 1968-69.
"We've got every other record, I figured I might as well go for that one," Shutt said. "Normally I don't think about things like this, but we have everything wrapped up, so I was trying pretty hard on it."
Rejeal Houle, Doug Risebrough and Iafleur (No. 55) beat Wolfe in the first five minutes as the Washington defense, shuffled by the absence of flu-ridden Bryan Watson, was disorganized at the start.
Low managed to keep things respectable for 32 minutes after Wolfe left, yielding only the first of Shutt's two goals. It came when Shutt flattened defenseman Gordie Lane behind the Washington net, then rose and skated into the slot. He converted a perfect pass from Lafleur, who falling along the side boards.
"I was behind the net about 15 seconds, hiding in the bullrushes," Shutt said. "Guy was messing around with the puck and I finally yelled at him."
Wolfe returned for the start of the third period, coach Tom McVie hoping to rest Low for Sunday's contest, and appeared completely bewildered. After Yvon Lambert, Shutt and Lapointe connected within 1:26, Low pulled on his mask. But before he could climb over the boards, the puck was dropped and Bob Gainey beat Wolfe on a breakaway 11 seconds later.
Lapointe, Murray Wilson and Jim Roberts completed the rout, most one-sided shutout ever suffered by the Capitals. The opposition's goal total was three shot of all time disaster, that 14-2 horror in Buffalo Dec. 21, 1975.
Shutt's second goal was a classic, as Lafleur skated through most of the Capitals, then passed out to Jacques Lemaire, who crisply set up Shutt in the slot.
Thats was one of our patented plays, where everybody on your line handles the puck," Shutt said."There were three good passes."
Shutt said this season had been "a lot of fun."
Montreal has won 59 games, topping its own record of 58 set last year, and has extended its unmatched point total to 130. In addition, with only eight defeats, the Canadiens are guaranteed another mark, since they own the low in that department of 10.
Montreal's victories are the result of more things than just putting the best available talent on the ice. A few weeks ago, it was discovered that four of the Canadiens' eight defeats had occurred on Sundays, after commercial fights following Saturday games in Montreal.