Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
The mighty Montreal Canadiens were willing to settle for a tie with the Capitals last night. Then with 3:18 to play an unfunny thing happened to Washington in the form of a Montreal goal, and one empty-net score later the Stanely Cup champions were 5-3 winners.
The scoreboard was static at 3-3 for 29 minutes before Doug Jarvis passed out of the corner at goalic Gary Smith's right and the puck wound up in the slot, on the stick of Rejean Houle, who had slipped behind defenseman Yvon Labre. Houle stubbed his shot, but it trickled under Smith into the net.
"They're the best team in hockey and it took a lucky goal to beat us," Smith said. "I tipped teh pass, just like you're supposed to, but it went right on their stick. Then he missed the shot, but it went under me."
Smith replaced starter Bernie Wolfe at the start of the second period and that was the only puck that got past him. He blocked 21 Montreal shots.
"I'm glad Smitty played well against them," Wolfe said. "That's 11 starts I've made against them, and I'm just spinning my wheels. Every time they shoot at me it seems to go in the net."
Guy Lapointe, Doug Risebrough and Houle beat Wolfe in the first period, but Dave Forbes and Tom Bowe connected for the Capitals. When Bob Sirois tied it at 7:20 of the second period, with his third goal in three games, it seemed that finally Washington might earn a point, in its 19th meeting with the Canadiens.
"We wouldn't have been unhappy with a tie," said Montreal coach Scotty Bowman."Sometimes on the road in the last 10 minutes you play for a tie. Everybody would talk about tying Washington, but a point on the road anywhere is important. That's where you decide your season."
Even after the deflating influence of Houle's tie breaker, the Capitals refused to fold. Sirois came close with 90 seconds left, then he and guy Charron drove at Goalie Ken Dryden in a desperate effort to grab the rebound. There was none.
"Ace (Bailey) passed it and I deflected it," Sirois said. "It was right between his legs, but he was down with his legs split and I couldn't get it past him."
After the Capitals pulled Smith for a sixth skater in the final minute, Bill Riley came inches away from a shot right in front of Dryden.
"It was just off the end of my stick, but a guy pulled my feet out from under me," Riley said. "It was right there. Our guys wanted to win so bad. Everybody skated 125 per cent, but with that team it always seems to roll their way."
Guy Lafleur was held scoreless for the second straight game, after a 30-game scoring streak, prompting him to say, "That's two games with no points after 30. Maybe I'll go 30 without scoring."