Bob Girard needed six stitches over his left eye and two stitches in his mouth last night. Yet he smiled, gap of missing teeth prominently displayed, and said, "I feel great. I'll take cuts anytime we can get a point against those suckers."
Girard and his Washington Capitals teammates, in lieu of a victory, accepted a 4-4 tie against the Philadelphia Flyers with realism, the knowledge still hovering near that they had come within a raised bone of defeat.
A shot by Philadelphia's Reg Leach with four seconds remaining slammed off the left shoulder of Washington goalie Gary Inness and caromed to where Rick Green could clear it. Inness was playing his first game for the Caps.
"It hit something in front, a stick probably, and tipped up and hit me on the point of the shoulder," Inness said. "It was heading for the far corner low and it might have been in if it hadn't deflected. He really teed it up.
"I'm not completely satisfied. I'd like to have had two points. But the guys played well. They played very mature defense."
The fans sitting behind the Washington goal during the first and third periods were less understanding, concerning both the tie and the play of the Capitals' defense. They booed Pete Scamurra unmercifully, with a good share left over for Green.
Scamurra and Green were on the ice for all four Philadelphia goals, a contributing factor to the torrent of abuse unseen since the days of Greg Joly. Yet Coach Danny Belisle, after calling time with seven seconds left, sent them out for the windup.
"When you put people in responsible positions all the time and things go wrong, they're fingered with guilt that doesn't necessarily belong to them," Belisle said. "Rick Green is one of the best defensemen in the league. And Pete Scamurra is a strong, smart hockey player.
"Allan Stanley was booed out of New York and he went to Toronto and helped win the Stanley Cup. That's what fans can do. Hopefully, they'll understand the value of Rick Green and Scamurra. They've been our best defensemen since we've put them together."
The Capitals are about to begin a four-game road trip and will not play at Capital Centre again until Jan. 3. Neither Green nor Scamurra was unhappy about hitting the road.
"That's the first time I've ever heard it," Green said. "I don't know why it is and why they do it. We're working our tails off. Maybe we'll get some cheers on the road."
The crowd was notable in another negative note. Only 8,911 showed up for this ninth Capital Centre meeting of the Capitals and Flyers. The smallest attendance for the previous eight was 17,626.
Those who didn't spend the night booing had much to cheer about as the Capitals, although outshot, 39-19, never trailed. Ex-Flyer Inness was marvelous in his debut as a Capital and defenseman Robert Picard played his best game of the season, bringing back memories of his March and April moves.
Bob Sirois, another former Philadelphian, sent the Capitals in front with his 16th goal and, after Jim Watson tied it, Tom Rowe moved Washington ahead with his 14th.
Mel Bridgman beat Innes high on the short side from the right-wing circle to make it 2-2, then Picard netted a 40-footer for his first goal since Nov. 2.
Dennis Maruk, who assisted both Rowe and Picard, converted a Picard feed for a power-play score and a 4-2 lead with 17 1/2 minutes remaining.
The dream of a first victory over Philadelphia in the teams' 17th meeting was shattered when Don Saleski and Barry Dean produced goals for the Flyers. It was 4-4 with 10 1/2 minutes left, Philadelphia was dominant and the Capitals were experiencing difficulty clearing their zone. Inness and Co. prevented further scoring, however, and team and players savored half a loaf.
The Capitals were twice penalized for having too many men on the ice in the first period and, although neither violation resulted in a Philadelphia goal, the crowd reacted with displeasure.
"The players were up for the game and they got a little too excited on the changes," Belisle said. "It could have been very costly for us."
Picard, in throwing his weight around, drew the displeasure of Philadelphia's Bob Kelly, who suddenly attacked the Capital in front of the Flyers' bench. Picard just covered up, but he swung back after Mel Bridgman landed a sucker punch from the bench. Kelly drew a major, Picard and Bridgman misconduct.
"I guest I lost the Lady Byng Trophy," joked Picard, who had served only nine minor penalties previously after sitting out 101 minutes a year ago. "It's been nice to stay out of the bloody box. I don't try to run guys, but tonight I was really up for it. I wanted to hit guys early and get into the game."
Picard sang the praises of another guy who likes to hit early and often, seldom used old partner, Bryan Watson.
"Bugsy peps us up," Picard said. "It's really important for us to have somebody come in and stir things up."