Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
The Washington Capitals' winless streak reached 10 games tonight, but there was ample consolation. For one thing, the Capitals tied the St. Louis Blues, 2-2, to earn a valuable point on the road. For another, they played well enough to win, and that hasn't happened very often this 2-10-3 season.
Goals by Bob Sirois, his seventh of the season, and Mark Lofthouse, his first in the NHL, enabled the Capitals to take a 2-1 lead into the final 10 minutes of a hard-fought, highly competitive game watched by 9,834 at the Checkerdome.
Brian Sutter, however, deflected Jack Brownschidle's power-play slap shot past Washington goalie Gary Smith with 8:04 remaining to tie the final knot. Dave Forbes was off the ice, serving his penance for hooking Garry Unger.
It was iron man Unger, playing his 740th consecutive game, who produced the game's first score, beating Smith on a breakaway at 7:57 of the second period.
A point on the road is an admirable reward, even for the mighty Montreal Canadiens, but the Capitals were in no mood to be tied tonight. After Sutter's tying score, they created enough unfulfilled scoring chances to make St. Louis' 40-year-old goal-tender, Eddie Johnston, the game's No 1 star.
First Tom Rowe, back from two games' exile in the press box, outhustled the Blues to avert an icing call. He carried the puck from the corner into the slot, where only Johnston's quick glove prevented a score.
"They let me walk right in and I thought I had a good shot," Rowe said, "but Johnston made a good glove save."
Next Guy Charron came around from behind, with some space showing between Johnston and the post. It was no goal.
"I had an opening this big," said Charron, hands a foot apart. "But the puck hit the toe of his skate and jammed on the side of the net."
Finally, Charron's perfect pass sent Bill Riley barreling into Johnston with the puck. That didn't work, either.
"I had a straddle the blue line so I wouldn't put Guy offside," Riley said, "and then when I got it I was really too close to maneuver. All I could do was sort of slide right into the net."
"I'm still thinking too much," said the frustrated Charron. "Maybe I should have just raced into the slot and shot. But Billy was open and I decided to give it to him. Some day I hope I can come into a hockey game and play loose."
Gary Smith was loose, roaming into corners, swinging his stick at crease trespassers and on one occasion, skating into the slot to dump Rick Bourbonnais with a solid check. That manouver, following the first St. Louis goal, seemed to arouse the Capitals after a brief downer.
For once, the Capitals played a good, aggressive game against a team they are capable of beating. Similar efforts against Montreal and Philadelphia were simply futile.
Defenseman Rick Green proved beyond doubt that his broken right wrist is sound, exchanging solid punches with Sutter.
"I can't ask for anything more," Green said. "If it can withstand that, it can withstand anything."
Sirois' goal came on a back-door maneuver similar to Charron's blunted effort. Johnston stopped Sirois, too, but the battling left wing netted the rebound.
Lofthouse's initial NHL score was a memorable one. He outfought the Blues for the puck in the corner, faked veteran defenseman Rod Seiling from his path and whipped a backhander from the slot. He then pounced on the rebound and drilled it home.