If there is another National Hockey League coach who understands what Tom McVie of the Washington Capitals has been going through lately it is Orland Kurtenback of the Vancouver Canucks.
"Believe me, I know what it's like to have the losses pile up," Kurtenback said Tuesday after the Canucks had edged the Capitals, 4-2, at the Pacific Coliseum. "When things are going badly sometimes it just seems you never get a break.
The loss to Vancouver was the Cap's 30th of the season against only nine wins and 11 ties. As for Kurtenbach's Canucks, until the victory over Washington, the West Coast team had won only three of its last 23 games.
The Captials continued their current six-game road trip last night in Los Angeles against the Kings.
Despite the loss to Vancouver - with the Canucks' final goal going into an empty Washington net - both McVie and the Capital's general manager, May McNab, professed to be satisfied with the effort of their players.
"I saw it as a dead-even game," said McNab, is making this trip to better evaluate the team's players. "Apart from one exception, I thought we killed our penalties very well."
Unfortunately for the Capitals, that one exception - whn Vancouver scored a power-play goal late in the second priod - proved to be the key to Washington's downfall. Less than a minute after Capital defenseman Larry Bolonchuck tied the score at 2-2 with a hard shot from the point, Bill Collins was assessed a two-minute penalty by Referee John McCauley for hooking. On the ensuing Vancouver power play, Canuck right winger Rick Blight scored his second goal to put Vancouver back in the lead.
"That was the turning point, there's no quesrion about," said McNah. "Until the penalty we were right back in the game and playing on even terms."
McVie said his players "followed our game plan to the hilt" and could easily have won had the breaks gone their way.
"We knew we had to play it tightly because we don't have the scoring power to open it up," said McVie, who added that he did not plan any lineup changes at this stage of the trip. "Except for a few breakdowns," he said, the players played the way I wanted them to. And I though young (Jim) Bedard in goal did an outstanding job."
Bedard, the rookie playing in his seventh consecutive game for the Capitals, faced 25 Vancouver shots - many of them difficult chances from close range.