Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
The Atlanta Flames' Eric Vail, Willi Plett, Curt Bennett and Tom Lysiak scored 117 goals last season. This year they had only 15 goals after 26 games.
But the Flames insisted their big guns could not stay muzzled forever. They had to explode. A couple of them did tonight and the victims were the Washington Capitals, 5-1.
Vail, with only one goal in 20 games, scored two against the Capitals, both on power plays. Bennett, who was scoreless in 20 games, broke his slump with a goal in the third period.
The Capitals know all about slumps. They have won only one game in the past 22. But they have been trouble for Atlanta. Washington beat the Flames here, 6-2, on Oct. 25, and the two teams tied, 2-2, in Landover, Md. Nov. 23.
The Flames had good reason to expect Vail and Bennett to end their scoreless habits. Bennett had picked up assists five of his last six games before scoring tonight.
Vail has been skating fast and shooting the puck hard but unluckily. "He's been getting some tremendous shots the past couple of games," coach Fred Creighton said, "but he hasn't been getting the net. Tonight he was hitting the net."
Vail's goals which had Atlanta ahead, 2-0, by the end of the second period, were 30-foot blasts from the left faceoff circle. John Gould passes set up both.
The Flames forechecked and body checked heavily, and Washington had few scoring chances at Dan Bouchard. The Capitals were outshot, 40-14, and in the second period Washington made only one shot.
"It was a strong game for us," Creighton said. "It seemed it got better as the night went on."
It became 3-0 early in the third period, as Bobby Simpson scored following a Mike Marson giveaway near the Washington net.
The Capitals scored their goal, to close to 3-1 at 8:59 of the third period. Guy Charron skated around defenseman Pat Ribbie and Charron got away a soft roller into the far corner of the net. Bouchard was down and out on the play and could not reach back in time for the save.
But the Flames put the game back out of reach at 15:05 as Bennett scored on a breakaway.