Danny Belisle came to Capital Centre for the first time last night. The Washington Capitals neglected to introduce their new coach to the crowd of 9,243 and the program listed his name as "Belise." The greatest indignity perpetrated on Belisle, however, came from his players, who were dreadful in losing to the Atlanta Flames, 6-3.
Atlanta, which was led by Tom Lysink's hattrick, grabbed an early 3-0 lead and outshot the Capitals, 15-4, in the first period. Even the Flames' goalie, Dan Bouchard, fired a shot on goal before the Capitals could muster one after 9 1/2 minutes.
That effort, by Eddy Godin was greeted by derisive cheers. The rest of the night, the fans showered boos on the heroes of Los Angeles and Atlanta, chanting "We want McVie" for the man Belisle succeeded and "Ber-nie" in hope No. 2 goalie Bernie Wolfe would come to the rescue of Jim Bedard, who was suffering a rare bad game.
"The end of the first period, I mulled it in my mind," Belisle said of relief for Bedard. "It was his third game in four nights and there was a lot travel. If I wanted to second guess myself, maybe I should have made a change."
"That guy couldn't stop a football," said Boom Boom Geoffrion, Atlanta vice president, apparently forgeting the 32 saves Bedard made as the same teams lied in Atlanta Friday night, 3-3.
Bill Clement, former Washington captain, who lied that one with 62 seconds left, opened the storing last night. Closely checked by Rick Green while each team skated two men short, Clement sent a soft backhander from the right-wing circle that skipped between Bedard's legs.
"I should have stood up," Bedard acknowledged. "I made the first move, I went down and he slipped it under me."
Less than a minute later, Washington's Robert Picard was skating up the left side when the puck struck the skate of teammate Gerry Meehan.As Picard lost it, Lysiak picked it up and skated in for a breakaway goal, on a backhander off the post.
"I was looking to make a pass and it hit Gerry's skate," Picard said. "We play two great games and come up here, where we wanted to play well, and the first 30 minutes were brutal."
Lysiak, 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, collected a second straight unassisted goal when he skated down the middle and outmuscled 6-4, 212-pound rookie Paul Mulvey to beat Bedard on the stick side.
Mark Lofthouse and Greg Carroll scored for the Capitals in the second period, but each time the Flames retaliated within less than a minute. Then Lysiak scored his third goal by skating down the left side, moving unchallenged into the slot and slipping the puck between Bedard's legs.
"This is my sixth year," Lysiak said. "I wondered if I'd ever get it. A couple of games I've had 10 shots and no goals. Tonight, I had half that (actually six) and got three. Some days you're lucky and some days you're not. I've had a lot of two-goal games, so I guess unluckiness is on my side."
The Capitals would dispute that. Their good-luck charm, Dorothy Benham Anderson, who sang the National Anthem as an unmarried Miss America at the last two home openers, both winners, was a loser last night, now that she is married to Pittsburgh defenseman Russ Anderson.
Tom McVie, watching from section 102, could have recognized the Capitals as those same losers who succumbed to Maine, 7-11, 11 nights ago and made his position untenable.
Belisle cautioned the cynical faithful, however, that, "We're still in the growing stages. When you lose a game, you don't pout or put your head down. You learn from your mistakes."
The Capitals will be in a learning situation tomorrow, when Belisle finally gets to hold a full-scale practice.