Chapter 23 of the Washington Capitals-Montreal Canadiens rivalry is scheduled this afternoon in the Montreal Forum, and this is one book containing the barest minimum of suspense.
Montreal has won the 22 previous meetings, by a combined score of 139-32. The most recent, however, on March 8 at the Forum, was the best of all. The Canadiens needed two third period goals by Guy Lafleur to edge by 4-3 a Washington team that twice built two-goal leads.
That was as good a performance as the Capitals have ever displayed, yet they still lost. It does not augur well for their chances this time.
Montreal enters the contest with an eight-game winning streak, a record that shows only two defeats in its last 42 games and ample rest. This is in contrast to the Capitals, whose 13-45-12 mark is the NHL's worst and who were forced to play a home game against the New York Rangers last night before chartering north for the 1:15 p.m. internationally televised contest (WDCA-TV 20 in Washington).
The Capitals are scheduled to charter right back so that they can play their third game in three days tomorrow at Capital Centre against the Detroit Red Wings (WTOP-1500 at 7:30 p.m.).
The in-and-out arrangement precludes the Capitals' large contingent of Montreal natives from visiting old friends and, in the case of Bob Sirois and Bob Girard, the restaurant they own with a third partner near Dorval Airport. Other Capitals with Montreal roots include Bernie Wolfe, Robert Picard, Guy Charron and Dave Forbes.