Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
The Washington Capitals can be thankful of one thing as they celebrate Thanksgiving. They are still alive, both physically and in NHL play-off contention. They did themselves little good last night, however, by dropping a 3-1 decision to the St. Louis Blues at Capital Centre.
St. Louis goalie Ed Staniowski blocked 26 shots, 13 in the final period, to reverse the result of Tuesday night, when the Capitals prevailed 4-3 at the Checkerdome.
The Blues were still safely in their beds yesterday morning, beneficiaries of a charter flight to Washington, when the Capitlas' fortunes started to go downhill shortly after a 6 a.m. wakeup call.
Many of the Capitals were transported to Lambert Airport on an ancient trolley, converted by a St. Louis hotel into a minibus. The rear door would not close, so players, owner Abe Pollin, General Manager Max McNab and Coach Danny Belisle were forced to endure both cold air and exhaust fumes. Belisle was accustomed to the chill, after two nights in unheated rooms, but he was not prepared for what happened next.
The driver of the unstable trolley rammed a concrete island near the airport entrance, the wheels collapsed, smoke poured from the rear and only the fact that the running board caught on the curbing prevented the trolley from tipping over.
Pollin led the rapid evacuation, the group marched the remaining quarter mile to the airport and there was no further difficulty until Staniowski took his position in the St. Louis nets.
Staniowski made three excellent saves on Gerry Meehan in the first period, two difficult stops on Guy Charron in the second, and another big save on Charron and two on Rick Green in the third. The only puck that went past him was Bob Sirois' deflection of a Tom Rowe power-play drive, creating a temporary 1-1 deadlock at 11:15 of the second period.
Sirois was not celebrating, because he later jammed his left thumb when he fell on the ice. He probably will head for precautionary X-rays after finishing his turkey today.
John Smarke banged in a rebound of Larry Patey's shot for a shorthanded score moments before Sirois connected. That one was set up when Washington point man Robert Picard overskated the puck, permitting Smarke and Patey to break in on Charron.
Brian Sutter shattered the deadlock with his 14th goal early in the third period, as Bernie Federko beat Picard and fed Sutter from behind the net. Then Federko wrapped it up with a backhander from the right-wing cirle.
The victory enabled the Blues to shatter a five-game losing streak and they reacted as if they had won the Stanley Cup.
"We got together today and talked over last night's effort," Staniowski said, "We decided we'd have to play a tighter game in our end. I was up for the game, but there wasn't sustained pressure. Every once in a while, they would trap us in our end, but the pressure wasn't that bad. I felt good and I think it helped me to get here this morning, right after the game. I like the idea of traveling right away."
The Capitals were unanimous in their praise of Staniowski, who watched Tuesday while Phil Myre gave up those four goals.
"Everything we shot hit him," Meehan said. "We were beaten by good goaltending. A lot of them were diving in front of pucks to help him those last 10 minutes. Territorially, it was no contest the last 10 or 15 minutes."
"I remember three good ones," Green said. "He robbed me three times point blank. I stood around and kept shooting and they kept hitting something."
"We buzzed around their net all night and couldn't put it in," Sirois said. "You can't win with one goal."
"We hit a hot goaltender," said Belisle. "He was flawless tonight. The guy stood on his head."