Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
The Washington Capitals made their season debut on Broadway tonight and got mixed reviews, depending on which act of their three-part National Hockey League drama you watched.
The Caps won the second period in an explosive tour de force, 5-0, but unfortunately had to play the first and third periods as well. They were occasionally tours de farce for the visitors, and the end result was a 5-5 tie with the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers led, 3-0, after the first 10 minutes, 24 seconds on solid goals by winger Steve Vickers, center Walt Tkaczuk (on a power play, the Caps having picked up a bench penalty for too many men on the ice) and winger Pat Hickey, who eventually earned the game's first star by cannonading the final score past Capital goaltender Jim Bedard with 4:45 left in the game.
In those first 11 minutes, the Caps looked as if they deserved to be panned by the critics - if not closed down by the cops for leaving rookie Bedard indecently exposed by defensive lapses.
But the 21-year-old rookie net-minder, now 2-4-1 since being called up nine games ago, hung in gamely, and the team pulled together in front of him.
The Caps looked like an altogether different cast after the first intermission, as if they had gotten a surge of adrenalin. "A few things happened in the dressing room," acknowledged coach Tom McVie, though he would not elaborate.
At any rate, the Caps started swarming all over the suddenly goal-hungry and careless Rangers, and center Guy Charron scored twice in the first 1:15 of the second period. Both shots were set up by left wing Bob Girard, recently acquired from Cleveland for discontented Walt McKechnie.
Charron, who scored both goals in the Caps' 2-1 victory at Los Angeles Saturday night, became the first man to score 50 goals for this team. He now has 153 goals in his NHL career, 14 this season.
The began the resurgence, and the Caps went on to demoralize New York's starting goalie, John Davidson, with a total of five goals in the period. Davidson, roundly booed by the crowd of about 13,000, was replaced by Wayne Thomas for the final period.
Bill Collins, the 34-year-old right wing who netted his 150th, NHL goal Nov. 20 and was credited with his 150th assist a week ago, got the tying goal on his own rebound off Davidson's skate at 12:04.
Eddy Godin, the improving 20-year-old rookie right winger, put the Caps ahead, 5-3, with a pair of goals 24 seconds apart, at 15:15 and 15:39. They were almost carbon copies of each other, flashig lefthand shots from just inside the left faceoff circle, both on assists from Gerry Meehan (who has 49 goals as a Capitol, one fewer than Charron).
"Godin is on the come. Madison Square Garden didn't shy him away," beamed McVie, who worked intensively with the youngster at last week's "mid-season training camp" at Squaw Valley, Calif., between games in Vancouver and Los Angeles. 'Those were both definitely goal-scorer's goals. He got the puck in the slot and rammed it in."
The Caps apparently got their sixth goal of the period at 18:59, but referee Ron Wicks ruled that Bob Sirois - who deserved plaudits for splitting the Rangers' defense three times during the Caps' barrage - batted the puck with his hand to Charron, who netted what would have been his third goal. A television replay seemed to indicate that goalie DAVIDSON had touched the puck with his stick before it fell to Charron, making it "live" again. But McVie said later he thought the call was correct and he had no complaints about officiating.
That second period matched the Caps' all-time single-period production. They had scored five times in a period twice before, both hone at Capital Centre, most recently against these same Rangers on March 25, 1977.
But alas, like midnight catching up with Cinderella, the second period ended and the Caps turned back into pumpkins. In the third period, their aggressiveness waned and the momentum changed again.
"New York tried to sit on its 3-0 lead, then we tried to sit on our 5-3 lead," McVie said later. "You can't do that. It doesn't work in this league."
With nine minutes left, Bedard - who had grown in assurance after the three first-period goals on which he didn't really have a chance - stopped at Tkaczuk slap shot, but the rebound slithered out about six feet to his left. Left wing Vickers jammed it in fo his second goal of the night, his eight of the year.
Now the Rangers were pumped up up again. With 4:54 left, defensemen Ron Greschner's shot was deflected just up and over the et by Bedard. But the Caps couldn't get the puck to the Ranger end.
Nine seconds later, Hickey stole it at the red line, passed off to right winger Eddie Johnstone, barreled down the right side, took the puck back and drilled a shot past Bedard, beating him cleanly on the rapidly decreasing angle.
The Rangers kept the puck in their attacking zone most of the last few minutes, and nearly had a goal with 22 seconds left. But center Phil Esposito, who played despite a charley horse in his right thigh that had made him a doubtful starter, couldn't shovel the puck through a massive pile at the mouth of the Caps' goal. Esposito won a face-off with 13 seconds left, but his final shot slid wide.
The shots on goal told the story nicely. The Rangers dominated the first period, 13-6. The Caps out-shot them in the second, 16-8. The Rangers prevailed in the third, 9-8. The final tall: 29 for each team.