The wind-chill factor in the snow-filled gales outside Chicago Stadium was minus-21 degrees at game time today. Inside, the Chicago Black Hawks put the Washington Capitals' five-game unbeaten streak into a deep freeze.
Launching a season-high 52 shots at Washington goalie Bernie Wolfe, the Hawks scored in each period for a 3-1 victory.
The Capitals' only goal was skated into a vacated net by Guy Charron 15 seconds after Chicago's third score. It merely boosted Charron's goal total to 17 and deprived Chicago netminder Tony Esposito of his second shutout in 24 hours.
Both teams had played Saturday night, but only one was ready this afternoon.
"We didn't show enough resistance to beat anybody," said coach Tom McVie, his own resistance squeezed to the vanishing point by a siege of flu. "Except for Bernie Wolfe we would have been massacred. We played awfully well against the Sabres (in a 4-4 tie Saturday), but tonight we were a different hockey club.
"For our hockey team to win, every game has to be like the Rose Bowl. We have to have a parade, marching music, 19 guys wanting to win as bad as they wanted to do anything."
This time, in contrast to most performances during the past three weeks, the Capitals were bad. They repeatedly gave up the puck in their zone and were beaten on the majority of the faceoffs.
There were some promising chances, particularly in the early minutes, but Esposito had most of the answers in a 17-save effort.
Gerry Meehan rapped a shot off the crossbar with Chicago ahead, 1-0, and moments later Esposito gloved a blast by Tom Rowe. Then Bob Sirois ignored his flu bug, flattened defenseman Dave Logan to obtain the puck and skated in alone only to fire into Esposito. Early in the second period, Robert Picard sent Sirois off on a breakaway, but Sirois shot wide.
Late in that period, with Washington behind, 2-0, and shorthanded, Bill Collins intercepted rookie Doug Wilson's errant pass in front of the net. Esposito dove out and knocked the puck off Collins' stick before he could shoot.
"I got that shot away good and fast," Meehan said of his clanger. "When I heard it hit, I thought it had hit in the back of the net, but the way it came off I knew it hadn't. It would have been a nice start. The game was half over before we got untracked."
"I went low after I got the puck from Logan when I should have shot high," Sirois said. "Then I shot high on the breakaway when I should have shot low. It's always easier afterward."
At least Sirois made no mistake in the third period after Dale Tallon gave up the puck while Chicago was still celebrating its third goal. Esposito was out of the net and Charron skated the puck right into the open cage.
Ivan Boldirev, Stan Mikita and John Marks fired seven shots apiece at Wolfe, a total that exceeded Washington's. The Hawks' 52 were six more then Montreal's previous high by a Capital opponent, recorded in a 5-1 decision Oct. 24.
Boldirev opened the scoring with a power-play goal just two seconds before Washington's Gord Smith was due to leave the box. He collected Darcy Rota's deflected pass off Wolfe's stick in front of the net.
Phil Russell skated down the left side, cut into the slot and fired a back-hander over Wolfe's left shoulder to make it 2-0. That score finished off a four-on-two break, with Collins stepping out of the penalty box too late to help and Ron Lalonde tangled at the other end after getting off a shorthanded shot.It was the only goal of a second period, when Chicago had a 23-3 shooting advantage.
Cliff Koroll's rebound shot wrapped it up after Mikita took the puck away from Washington's Jean Lemieux.
Charron's goal came on his only shot of the game, as he was outplayed by the wily 37-year-old Mikita.
"I think Mikita won every faccoff he was involved with," McVie said, "but I imagine he beats a few people in the league. Probably everybody."
"It took a while for me to get know him," Charron said "I was halfway successful blocking his stick and sweeping the puck away. The odd time you've figured him out, but he'll change something. He's always been one of the best. He doesn't beat you with finesse, what he's learned all those years."
There were no excuses in the Washington dressing room and not many even tried to explain how a team could play so well against powerful Buffalo and so poorly against mediocre Chicago.
"Chicago plays a different style of game completely from Buffalo," Mechan said. "There wasn't as much bumping last night. Chicago plays the man pretty good and we hadn't seen them for two months. You have to get readjusted."
For the Capitals, there wasn't time.