Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
It was Tuesday night and the Capitals were playing Vancouver so, naturally. Washington lost. This time, however, the Capitals lost more than a hockey game. They also lost a captain.
Gerry Meehan turned in his "C" last night before the Capitals took a 4-2 beating from the Canucks, running their Tuesday record to 0-7-1, with four of the defeats at the hands of Vancouver.
"I haven't been playing well and I thought maybe I'd play better without it," Meehan said. "I thought maybe I was carrying a little bit too much in my mind, that maybe I'd be more mentally alert if I wasn't carrying it.
"I tried to think of the difference between the times when things were going well for the team, and for me, and that was the only thing I could think of. There's no disgruntlement. It's a personal decision and I still hope it may change things around, even if it didn't work tonight."
Meehan said he considered his appointment, on Nov. 8, an interim move until Yvon Labre returned. Labre had hoped to play last night, but it was decided at a morning practice - where Labre was cut across the bridge of the nose in a friendly tussle with Bob Girard - that Labre's right knee was not ready.
The Capitals were ready for something last night, but it was not necessarily a hockey game. Bryan Watson took a run at Vancouver captain Don Lever just five seconds after the opening faceoff and was assessed an elbowing minor in addition to the coincidental fighting majors for the fracas that followed:
The Canucks' power play clicked before the first minute ticked away. Claire Alexander beat goalie Jim Bedard from the outer edge of the right-wing circle, and Vancouver was ahead to stay.
Watson went off later for boarding Chris Oddleifson and again the Canucks capitalized, Hilliard Graves connecting from the slot off Mike Walton's setup. In between, the Capitals' Mike Marson outpunched Pit Martin to the extent that the Canucks' Shelly Kannegiesser was expelled for coming to Martin's rescue, and there were battles between the Capitals' Bill Riley and the Canucks' Walton, and Washington's Dave Forbes and Vancouver's Jere Gillis.
When the fisticuffs subsided a bit - there were 62 penalty minutes in the period - Walton netted his 22nd goal on a screened shot from the right-wing circle for a 3-0 Vancouver lead.
Rick Bragnalo's first goal of the year, off Marson's first-assist pass from behind the net, made it 3-1 before the period ended. Then Bragnalo copied Marson's maneuver, to Forbes' benefit, and it was 3-2 with 24 minutes left and the Capitals coming on.
However, before the second period ended, Larry Bolonchuk was bounced for interfering with Oddleifson. Just three seconds after Bolonchuk stopped on the ice and before he could enter the play, Oddleifson jammed a second rebound of a Walton shot off Bedard's stick and into the net for the clincher.
Walton spent considerable time staring eyeball to eyeball at Bedard, who noted, "When they shoot so close in, it's hard to get control of the puck."
It was obviously hard for Coach Tom McVie to control his emotions as he said after this 15th home defeat (compared with five victories, five ties): "Our power play was horrible, our penalty killing was horrible and we made horrendous mistakes in our own end. We got exactly what we deserved. You can't win in the National League when you spot a team three goals. It looked like a Chinese fire drill in our end of the rink. It was just brutal."
Of the Capitals' leadership problem, McVie said, "A captain has an important role on a hockey team. Garry came to me and said he wanted to turn it in. I'm in no hurry to talk to anybody else about it. We'll see how Yvon comes around and meanwhile I'll designate two captains each game."
"There's some kind of spark we're just not igniting," Meehan said. "We're getting the opportunities, but we're not scoring. We feel like a bunch of golfers who can't make a foot-and-a-half putt. When you're not scoring enough goals to beat the other team, they get more confident. They're more relaxed, they take chances and things come easier than if you're tight."