Danny Belisle, the Washington Capital's harried coach, slashed his throat while shaving this afternoon. He was saved the temptation of trying again tonight when the Capitals rallied with two goals in the last four minutes to salvage a 5-5 tie with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Rick Green's cannonball wrist shot from the left-wing circle with 31 seconds remaining produced an eruption of boos from those remaining in the sellout crowd of 16,485. But in Section 44, Green's father, mother, brother and two sisters were jumping and shouting in unrestrained joy.
"We kept plugging away and got two goals," Green said. "The name of the game is to keep working. I just wish I could see the faces of all those people who walked out when they pick up tomorrow's paper."
Belisle yanked goalie Gary Inness with 1:40 remaining and Toronto's Mike Palmateer made big saves or Blair Stewart and Guy Charron before Charron started the tying play. From the left point, he fired the puck into the corner to Dennis Maruk, who made an accurate feed to Green.
"I gave Denny a good target and he put it right on my stick," Green said. "I was out far enough that the defenseman was out of reach. I wanted to make sure I got it away in a hurry and it happened that it just caught the upper corner (over Palmateer's left shoulder)."
Green, who entered the game with an inexplicable minus 33 rating, trimmed that considerably, since he was on the ice for the last four Washington goals and was not burned once by the Leafs.
"Greenie got it away quick," said General Manager Max McNab. "There are few guys on our club who could use the wrist shot like that."
Toronto Coach Roger Neilson already under fire for his club's recent mediocre performances that included a 7-6 loss at Capital Centre Dec. 17, injected some bah-humbug by claiming, vainly, that Washington's Ryan Walter had both skates in the crease when Green scored.
Maruk, the Capitals' leading scorer, had been shut out for three straight games and seemed headed for a fourth until he deflected Tom Rowe's drive past Palmateer with 3:22 to play.
"Our line had bad luck tonight, but we just kept pushing harder," Maruk said. "The whole team didn't give up. When you can come back like that, you know you've got a good team."
Belisle, throat bandaged, wasn't sure what kind of a team he has.
"We do some strange things," he said. "I don't know whether I can stand it. We had the game, we gave it back and then we were fortunate to come back. But it's a confidence builder. It's good for our guys."
Walter rebounded a Robert Picard slap shot and Mark Lofthouse converted Holf Edberg's cross-crease pass to give the Capitals a 2-0 lead in the first seven minutes of the game.
The Capitals' momentum expired when Greg Carroll was penalized for holding the puck against the boards. Ron Ellis halved the margin on the ensuing power play.
Inness permitted a routine shot to escape in the second period and Lorne Stamler's rebound pulled Toronto even. Then Tiger Williams scored off Ian Turnbull's adept drop pass to send the Leafs in front, 3-2.
Rowe lost the puck to Jimmy Jones in front of the Washington net to boost Toronto to a 4-2 lead early in the third period. Bob Girard gave the Capitals life by rebounding a long Green shot, but Toronto appeared to have put it away with 12:21 to play when Pat Boutette rolled the puck through Inness' legs. The puck appeared to deflect off Williams, who was wrestling with Washington's Gord Lane in the left-wing circle.
"I saw Boutette wind up, but I didn't see the puck," said Inness, a native of Toronto. "Then I saw it coming out from under Lane and Williams and I tried to move. Just as I moved, it hit something-Gordie said it hit Williams-and went through my legs.
"I didn't play as well as I should, but the guys made up for it and got five goals. That's the team concept. We have to help out each other. It's there. It's coming."