Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
The Buffalo Sabres are moving into the Stanley Cup playoffs with an impressive total of 101 points, and the Washington Capitals, with 57 fewer points, are packing in preparation for a long summer. Few in the crowd of 10,574 at Capital Centre Tuesday night could explain why.
The Capitals achieved almost total domination for 57 minutes, slipped enough to freeze early departees in the aisles and wound up beating the Sabres for the first time in 10 battles at Landover, 4-3.
Defensemen Robert Picard assisted on all three second-period goals at Washington turned a 1-1 deadlock into an apparent 4-1 rout. Mike Marson, Tom Rowe and Ace Bailey deposited the pucks in the net, each on his only shot of the period.
The biggest play of the period, however, came at the other end, where Washington goalie Jim Bedard protected a 3-1 lead with a magnificent save on Gil Perreault.
Freed by Jos Guevremont's headman pass, Perreault sailed in alone, one of the best one-on-one men in hockey. He put several moves on Bedard, then tried to stuff a backhander behind the goalie, who reached back with his left arm and blocked the ice-hugging shot. Bedard received a standing ovation and the Capitals blossomed as the Sabres sagged.
I watched Perreault with the Montreal Juniors when they played in Niagara Falls," said Bedard, a Niagara Falls native, "and I watched him from his first year in Buffalo. He's a great hockey player and he has so many moves, I had to be lucky.
"I didn't think he'd shoot becaues he went that way (the deke) against me in Buffalo and I thought he'd do it again. But he went back and forth so quick I had trouble following it. The big think was that I was close enough to his stick so he couldn't lift the puck. I thought the team got a lift after that."
The Capitals suddenly fired a barrage of shots at Buffalo's substitute goalie, Bob Sauve, an early-season teammate of Bedard at Hershey. Picard concluded the flurry with a blast from the left-wing boards that struck Bailey's right skate blade and skipped past Suave.
"I'll take it," Bailey said, laughing, "That's the first one I got like that in a few years. Usually, they hit my skate and go away from the net."
That seemed to wrap up the game. The Capitals controlled the third-period faceoffs, 19-7, and there was only a minor groan when Sauve foiled Dave Forbes on a breakaway with five minutes remaining. Veteran Capital watchers, however, have learned never to leave early.
With 2:47 left, Buffalo defenseman Bill Hajt whacked a seemingly harmless 30-foot shot at Bedard. It struck the goalie's glove and skipped beyond him.
"He shot pretty hard," Bedard said, "but the way it was flipping I thought it was coming in on a lob. Actually, there was a lot on it and it hit just before the palm of my glove."
The Sabres lifted Sauve for a sixth skater in the final minute and rookie Bill Stewart was able to slip in front of the net, take Don Luce's pass out of the corner and register his first NHL goal with 20 seconds remaining.
Buffalo managed to get the puck behind the Washington net before the game ended, but it did not launch another shot on goal and the Capitals somewhat thankfully celebrated their second lifetime victory over the Sabres. No. 1 came last season at Buffalo, 4-2.
"I'm not happy about the end," said Washington Coach Tom McVie. "We stopped doing what got us there in the first place. We broke our concentration and got ourselves in trouble. But I don't think it was any contest for two periods. We outskated them, outworked them and outshot them."
Buffalo was limited to 11 shots in the first 40 minutes. Its third shot, at 1:18 of the first period, produced a goal as Rene Robert deflected a blast by flu-ridden Jim Schoenfeld.
Bobby Sirois tied it up at 5:56 with his 23rd goal, the culmination of some superb passing from Rick Green to Bob Girard to Guy Charron to Sirois.
Don Edwards, Buffalo's starting goalie, kept things even when he stopped Gerry Meehan on a breakaway. It was a frustrating evening personally for ex-Sabre Meehan, who could have had four goals with any luck on some testing shots.
Early in the second period, Marson took a headman pass from Picard, Skated into the left-wing circle, would up and sent a blazing slap shot past Edwards on the short side.
The Capitals went up by 3-1 when Charron yanked the puck away from three Sabres in the corner and passed it out to Rowe. The youngester's drive was so powerful it went through an unscreened, unhindered Edwards. It also drove Edwards from the game.