The Washington Capitals, humiliated 6-1 by the Minnesota North Stars at Capital Centre 12 days ago, figured to be burning for revenge tonight. Instead, once more they suffered a 6-1 burning.
Centers Bobby Smith, named the No. 1 star for the third straight game, and Tim Young scored two goals each for the North Stars, who have compiled a 9-3-1 record this month for the best December in their 12-year history.
Gilles Meloche, as usual, was a standout in the Minnesota net.He stopped 17 shots in the second period preventing Washington from mounting a combeack, and lowered his outstanding goals-against mark to 2.84.
"The guy just keeps them in there." said Washington Coach Danny Belisle. "we came back to 2.1 and we got something going, but we just couldn't beat him. Out of 18 shots, we should get a couple of goals."
The Capitals did get one, Robert Picard blasting a 45-footer past a screened Meloche for his third goal in two games and reducing the deficit to 2-1. But Minnesota trumped that with two goals in 20 seconds. The North Stars' third goal was enough to make a Capital cry. Smith sent a entering pass into the slot from the left of goalie Jim Bedard Defenseman Leif Svensson tried to poke the puck away and instead deposited it in his own net.
"Smith was coming in and I try to stop the puck because another guy was open behind me," Svensson said. "I guess it was typical for the game."
Twenty seconds later, Greg Smith drove a 55-foot shot from the left point that Steve Payne deflected past Bedard for a 4-1 margin.
In the last 10 minutes of the second period, Washington outshot the home club, 13-2, struck a couple of goal posts and shot wide from close range several times. Because of Meloche, the score did not change.
"Gil has always played that way," said Al Macadam, like Meloche a refugee from the Cleveland Barons.
"The difference is that he used to play this way standing on his head and he'd lose, 1-0."
During his peak period of activity, Meloche stopped three rebounds, including one midair effort by Picard that brought the night's loudest appreciation from the crowd of 10,398.
At the other end, the rebounds were destroying Bedard, who was making his first appearance in the Washington nets since we yielded five goals in 40 minutes to the North Stars, Dec. 15.
First-period goals by Bobby Smith and Young, and third-period scores by Young and Kris Manery all came on followups of initial shots that Bedard blocked. It was about half luck of the bounce and half Bedard's lack of sharpness in failing to control relatively easy shots.
"This was Jimmy's first game in a while and it was a reaction thing, particularly on that second goal," Belisle said. "he played about as well as he can."
Gary Inness had played the last three games and he was healthy enough to start again, but Bedard was chosen instead and General Manager Max Mcnab said, "We haven't lost confidence in Bedard. We feel he can do the job."
Mcnab, watching his first game at Met Center, was less certain about others and admitted he was "disturbed by a few individual performances."tWashington failed to capitalize on the absence of Minnesota defensemen Brad Maxwell, who suffered a shoulder separation in St. Louis Tuesday, and Fred Barrett, who has calcium deposits in his thigh.
One shift would see extensive pressure against the Minnesota defense; on the next, the North Stars were able to relax.
"We put all kinds of pressure on them one shift and didn't get a shot on goal," Belisle noted.