Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
Tom Rowe hadn't scored a goal in six weeks, didn't step on the ice in the first period last night and gave away the puck in front of his own net on his second shift.
Nevertheless, Rowe was the No. 1 star as his two-goal effort enabled the Washington Capitals to tie the New York Rangers, 3-3, in an up-and-down battle that left most of the 8,923 fans and most of the palyers drained of emotion at Capital Center.
Rowe's second goal came with 9:45 left, as he stole a pass from Ranger Pat Hickey, walked in alone from center ice and put a backhander behind goalie Wayne Thomas after a most effective deke.
"I came right off the bench and he (Hickey) hadn't seen me," Rowe said. "I was hoping to pick up the puckand that's what happened. It couldn't have worked better."
For the last nine minutes-plus, both teams swept down the ice past weary defensemen for good scoring chances, but Thomas and Washington's Bernie Wolfe kept things on an even keel.
The Capitals' Bill Collins hit a goal post with seven minutes left after skating around Ranger backliners Don Awrey and Carol Vadnais.
With one minute left, Wolfe stopped two shots by Walt Tkaczuk from close range, then with just 10 seconds remaining he reached up and swatted away a Vadnais drive with his glove after the Ranger defenseman had swept through the entire Washington team.
The Capitals were playing with only five defensemen, because Rick Green was found to have a mild separation of the left shoulder and will be forced to join the club's massive injury corps for several weeks.
The Rangers finished with four defensemen, including graybeards Awrey (34) and Dallas Smith (36). Dave Maloney left with an apparent concussion after just 11 seconds when he was racked unp by the Capitals' Mike Marson. Ron Greschner departed in the second period with a bruised left hip.
Tkaczuk scored the only goal of the first period during Marson's major penalty for charging Maloney. There were 37 minutes of in time in the period, leaving only 4 minutes 3 seconds for the teams to skate at full strength. Rowe, no power-play expert or penalty killer, saw no action at all.
After Hickey gave New York a 2-0 lead in another extra-man situation, further boosting the Rangers' status as the NHL's top power-play team, Rowe went to work.
He lost the puck in front of his own net, went back to his right-wing post and received Bryan Watson's feed as the Rangers failed to capitalize. Firing from 40 feet out, he leaped in joy when the puck went through Thomas. It was his first score since Nov. 19 and only his third of the season.
"I was so lucky it never went in when I lost it," Rowe said. "But I was completely relaxed tonight. I made up my mind to be. Everybody tells me I'm doing well in practice, but I always seemed to tighten up in the games."
"He's had great, great days at Fort Dupont," said coach Tom McVie, "but now he's put it together when it's for real. If he puts the puck on the net, he's bound to score some goals. Not many guys can handle his shot."
Not long after Rowe scored, Gerry Meehan put the puck in the net for an apparent tying goal. It was waved off by referee Dave Newell, who blew his whistle to stop play after Thomas had made two quick saves. The puck, however, was still free in front of the goalie.
"I heard the whistle," Meechan acknowledged, "but the whistle should never have sounded. The puck was a yard open in front. He said he didn't see it, but if he didn't he wasn't in position. Everybody in the stands saw it. It cost us a win."
Guy Charron eased that disappointment two minutes later by taking Rowe's pass, skating around Smith and lifting the puck as Thomas went down. It was Charrons 15th goal and 29th point, tying him with Bob Sirois for the team lead in both categories.
Steve Vickers sent New York ahead, 3-2, at 4:25 of the final period, tapping in Lucien DcBlois' perfect pass from the right wing.