Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
A crowd of 12,480, fifth largest in Quebec Nordiques' history, came to see Robert Picard tonight. It watched an outstanding performance by the young Washington defenseman and, for an added bonus, it was able to exault over a 4-3 overtime victory by the home club.
Real Cloutier scored at 4:18 of sudden death to negate an outstanding goaltending performance by Washington's Gary Smith. The 6-foot-4 veteran stopped 24 of 26 shots dduring the first two periods and held the defending World Hockey Association champions scoreless during a 10-minute shorthanded situation created by a match penalty to Gordle Lane.
Lane's slash from behind at Paulin Bordeleau, skating goalward on a breakaway, emptled the benches briefly and turned some verbal heat on the Capitals, but the crowd proved exceptionally calm throughout.
When Picard was dimped by Peter Driscoll in the third period, he lay on the ice for a while.Then he rose, to cheers from the fans. He returned briefly, but was forced to sit out the extra period with a sore back.
"He caught me with an elbow and I hit his arm and fell," Picard said. "I hit my back on the ice. It's sore, but I'll be OK."
Picard was greeted by a flying pizza reminder of a statement he made after he signed with the Nordiques that he would "rather sell pizza in Quebec than play in Washington." That contract he signed with Quebec was never ratified by the WHA and the Capitals' No. 1 draft pick reported to Washington shortly thereafter.
Eariler today, on the bus taking the Capitals to the airport, a player shouted, 'Hey, I hear somebody's out to get Pic." Then all the players sitting in the rear of the bus moved forward, leaving Picard a laughing loner.
The joking ended when the game began and, when Driscoll gave Picard a couple of shots, backline partner Bryan Watson quickly came to his aid, putting Driscoll on his back.
It was a hard-fought game with rugged checking. Picard set the tope, dumping Serge Bernier and Paulin Bordeleau with solid checks on his first shift.
Quebec held a 3-1 lead with nine minutes to play, but Bill Collins converted Ron Lalonde's pass from the corner and Bill Riley deflected Gord Smith's long drive for his second goal of the game.
Washington had several chances to win it, both in regulation time and extra time. But Quebec goalie Richard Brodeur caught some of the Gary Smith-Bernle Wolfe syndrome and made some sensational saves himself.
Not long after Brodeur foiled a Guy Charron breakaway, Garry Lariviere's drive from the point slipped through defenseman Jack Lynch, who thought he had smothered it, and Cloutler scored.
It was only an exhibition, but its scheduling had prompted Quebec general manager Maurice Filion to say, "If we are not capable of beating the Capitals, we ought to retire from hockey."
And afterward, Washington coachh Tom McVie would say, "It kills me. I feel as badly about losing this as any game the Caps have played."
This last interleague exhibition left the WHA with a 13-62 edge over NHL clubs. The Capitals lost all three outings, two in overtime.
The Nordiques might have won by a far bigger score, except for Smith's efforts. He had not looked sharp in earlier workouts and games, but he was amazzing during the 10-minute stretch of the second period when Washington skated short. During two of those minutes, the Capitals were two men down, Picard being sentenced for dislodging his goal cage.
When Smith gloved a Cloutier drive from 10 feet away, the home fans responded with gruding applause.