The Los Angeles Kings rested Rogie Vachon for the first time in 19 games Saturday night, but there was no lack of outstanding goaltending at the Forum. In fact, only the red, white and blue uniform of the Washington Capitals separated Jim Bedard from the Vachon display of larceny.
Bedard stopped 38 Los Angeles shots to send the Kings home with heads shaking and their fans with tongues wagging in discontents. For the Capitals to savor, on their long red-eye flight to Washington, there was the sweetness of a 2-1 victory, the team's first in 11 games here.
Bedard came out to cut the angles, dove from side to cover up defensemen's errors and received three assists from the goal post in recording his second triumph in six NHL starts. He kept the Kings scoreless in the second perios, despite Los Angeles' 16-3 edge in shots, and maintained his sharpness through a 13-4 deficit in the third.
One of the Capitals' four third-period shots was Guy Charron's rebound with 2:34 remaining that won the game for washington. Charon danced from slot to boards in elation.
Bob Sirios set up the winter, Charron's second goal of the game, by skating in from the corner with the puck, drawing the defenseman away from Charron and then feeding his center. Los Angeles goalie Gary Simmons, making hid first appearance since Nov. 1. blocked Charron's shot, but the rebound came straight back and Charron didn't miss.
"Bobby drought it out and laid it there for me," Charron said, "Bob Girard was in front bothering Simmons and at first I couldn't see the net.
Then when I shot, it came right out to me. That's the kind of break we need."
Charron's two goals brought his NHL career total to 151 and ha noted. "When you first start in hockey, you don't know you'll reach that plateau. Once you get there it's great. But it's still far from Gordie Howe's record (1.001)."
"Those three days in Squaw Valley brought our hockey club together," said coach Tom McVie. "In the first period the club was jumping pretty good. The Kings played awfully well, tyring to make our defensemen and forwards crack under pressure, but by the third period our forward were backchecking and our defensemen were standing up.
"There's no question Jim Bedard kept us in there. He was so strong in the net, but what I liked more was the way he got our defensemen out of trouble. He was getting the puck to them who was forechecking them, moving the puck around the boards. The tougher things got, the tougher he got.
"Vachon plays like that. He comes way out and backs into the net, and that's what Jim was doing. It looks like he's going to be a bonus for us."
"Coach McVie wants me to challenge the shooters," said Bedard, who wad charging at unde guarded Kings throughout the game. "Roger Crozier has been working with me on it, too. Sometimes I get too far, but if they want me to come out that's what I'll do."
The 8.125 fans, smallest crowd here since 1974, were so quiet at times that Bedard could be heard shouting instructions to his teammates. The 21-year-old rookie is not reluctant to do so.
"You've got to be telling the guys what's happening," Bedard said. "It's a lot easier if a guy knows when somebody's right on him. It can keep him from getting his head smashed in.
"I was nervous before the first couple of games, but I'm comfortable now.I really feel I'm into the game."
"The only thing we don't know about young Bedard is how he recovers from a bad game," said general manager Maz McNab. "He hasn't had one."
Defenseman Robert Picard, who had a reputation as a good fighter in junior days, won his first NHL battle by pummeling the Kings' captain Mike Murphy. Picard held Murphy with his left hand and punched with his right until Murphy went down.
"I had to get something going," Picard said. "The last game here he gave me a dirty shot. I decided I had to get him. After the scrap, I didn't see him the rest of the night.
"I'm going to hit a few guys and if they want to scrap I'll scrap. It's a good way for me to rget going."
Picard cracked his right elbow on a goal post when he fell backward over Simmons in the second period. He left for repairs but returned for the crucial third period.
"I hit my funny bone and it froze," Picard said. "But Gumpy (trainer Gump Embro) pressed it and got the feeling back."
The whole team got some feeling back - a good feeling.