The Washington Capitals, who were much more than a mile high when they reached Denver Thursday, struggled home yesterday looking and feeling like the last-place team they are at present.
Winners by 6-2 in Atlanta, where they had never won before, the Capitals yielded 15 straight opposition goals in Colorado where they lost, 8-1, Friday, and in Minnesota, where they were beaten, 7-4, Saturday.
Although home cooking always looks good after a diet of road fare, this week offers more tricks than treats to a team desperately in need of a couple of victories.
On Wednesday the Capitals entertain a Chicago team rejuvenated under coach Bob Pulford that has already won road games in Buffalo and Cleveland. Thursday the Capitals visit Philadelphia, never a visitor's paradise, and Saturday the Flyers return the favor at Capital Centre.
Coach Tom McVie, uncertain what to expect from his team of Jekylls and Hydes, promised that "we will go back to fundamentals. We're particularly going to work on checking in our own end. Minnesota was getting goals almost as easy as they wanted. We actually, if you can believe this, were outplaying them, but every time they broke down the ice they scored."
The North Stars built a 7-0 lead before Washington took advantage of a major penalty against former Capital Harvey Bennett to make the final score a bit more respectable.
"At least our power play got moving," McVie said. "And we've got a good system when the guys are applying themselves. Our big problem is no consistency. We don't seem to have the kind of team that can go on a winning streak. And you can't practice winning streaks."
Center Guy Charron, who claimed to be healthy but was without a goal since he potted the winner against Pittsburgh Oct. 14, netted two in that final flurry at Minnesota.
"That might help him," McVie said. "He seemed to be getting frustrated."
Defenseman Gordie Lane will be ready Wednesday after suffering a badly bruised foot when he was struck by a Mark Suzor slap shot in Colorado. He spent Saturday on crutches, dressed for the game but sat on the bench.
Left wing Ace Bailey will be unavailable this week because of a stretched knee ligament suffered in Colorado. Tony White was called up from Hershep to replace him and "played pretty good," according to McVie. "He was on the move. That's natural when you get a call. I hope he can keep it up."
Center Gerry Meehan missed both weekend games because of a double dose of personal problems. His father suffered a heart attack and his mother-in-law a stroke.
The goaltending situation is not bright, and one can only wonder whether 35-year-old Roger Crozier will be put to early test.