The Washington Capitals were pleased to receive a Christmas tie tonight. There was celebration on the ice and horseplay in the dressing room after Washington battled the Detroit Red Wings to a 2.2 deadlock.
"This is our cigar for ties," said Coach Danny Belisle, polluting the air with a foot-long stogie. "You can imagine the size of the one for victories."
"We couldn't afford to drop another two points behind Detroit," said goalie Gary Innes, who raised his stick in joy as the buzzer terminated his superb 30-save performance. "We wanted a win, but that one point is a big one, too."
Robert Picard, who has been playing like a man who deserves All-Star votes, collected both Washington goals, lifting the Capitals into a 2.0 lead by the first minute of the second period.
The Wings' power play most productive in the NHL, evened things before that period ended. Hooking penalties against Guy Charron and Rick Green set up goals by Willie Huber and Caclay Nedomansky.
Washington was assessed another hooking minor, against Picard with 1:27 left in the game, and there was concern that power-play goals, like hooking penalties, might come in threes.
On the ensuing extra-man advantage, however, the Wings were neutralized by the fine penalty killing of Greg Carroll, Bob Sirois, Pete Scamurra and Rick Green.
Sirois, in fact, sent a testing shot at goalie Rogie Vachon, on the end of a two-on-one break with Carroll. It was Sirois' fifth shot on goal; no other Capital managed more than two as Washington was outshot, 32-18.
Inness played brilliantly and Belisle commented, "If we had had that kind of goaltending all season we'd have another 10 or 12 points."
There was worrisome moment late in the second period when Detroit's Paul Woods slipped around Green and the two crashed into Inness, who lay on the ice while trainer Gump Embro treated his right knee. He rose, however, and finished up, making two saves on Nick Libett while lying flat on the ice before the period ended.
"I think it's just a little hyperextension," Inness said. "My leg was caught on the other side of the net and the two of them whacked my thigh just above the knee.
"I never thought about coming out. It wouldn't be fair to Jummy (Bedard) and, anyway, when I start a game I want to finish, regardless. I think most goalies feel that way."
Picard, chosen as the game's No. 1 star, opened the scoring at 16:52 of the first period. Carroll held the puck inside the Detroite blue line, then fed Picard, who skated down the middle at full speed and blasted the middle at full speed and blasted a 30-foot shot over Vachon's left shoulder.
"Before I was trying to do everything by myself," Picard said. "I was rushing too much. On that first goal I probably would have been in there already, the way I had been playing, instead of hanging back and taking advantage of the great play Buzzy (Carroll) made."
Picard's seconde goal was set up by Sirois, who, as he cut acrosss the slot from right to left, fired a hard shot at Vachon. Vachon left the puck lying in the crease and Picard poked it in before the goalie could corral it.
"The puck squirted out underneath him and I batted it across the goal line," Picard said. "Danny's told us in drills always to look to the net and I said to myself if there was a rebound, I'd there to get it."
Belisle was upset by the penalty calls, because he felt referee Dave Howell had overlooked a number of other violations.
"We carried the play in the first period and then we were slowed up by those penalties," Belisle said. "That was a cheap call at the end. Rick Green was tripped twice in the corner and he ignored them."
There was no doubt that Picard had hauled down Dan Boldue, however. Boldue had beaten Leif Svensson and if Picard had hesitated, chances for a goal were bright.
"That was my only chance to stop him," Picard said. "I tried to get the puck off him and couln't But it was a brutal call, after he let so much so."
The Wings' Bill Lochead sent the crowd of 14,622 into temporary ecstasy when he beat Inness with 1:36 left. Linesman Bot Hodges had his arm raised for a delayed offside, which he whistled to stop play as Lochead took the puck away from Seamurra.
Blair Stewart returned to the Capitals from Hershey and played creditably, although he said, "I felt so tired out there, it was like I had a plough on my back for two periods."