This has been a big winter for disaster movies on television. If they are presenting an award to the best, the Washington Capitals should submit a tape of tonight's game against the Buffalo Sabres.
Buffalo won, 6-2, to keep the Capitals in the Norris Division cellar. Washington was loose with the puck in its own end all night and paid dearly, although the shots were even, 27-27.
Guy Charron, the team's captain and sparkplug, fell late in the second period, banged his head against the boards and was knocked unconscious. Although he suffered a mild concussion, he was no hospitalized.
Physicians who examined Charron recommended that he rest at least 24 hours, which would force him out of Friday night's 7:30 home game against the Colordo Rockeis. Charron has played 202 straight games since he was dealt to the Capitals by Colorado.
Center Rolf Edberg was cut in the nose by a Buffalo stick moments before Charron's accident. It required 18 stitches to close the wound but Edberg was back in the third period.
Defenseman Gord Smith was drilled in the left kneecap by a Richard Martin slap shot and crumpled to the ice in the third period. He, too, returned to action.
Winger Tom Rowe, disputing linesman Randy Mitton's offside call on a two-line pass, was assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct minor by Mitton, then sat out the last 10 minutes with a misconduct penalty after he slammed his stick against the penalty-box glass and shouted at referee Dave Newell.
Goalie Gary Inness, suffering his worst performance in a Washington uniform, looked absolutely foolish on the sixth Buffalo goal. Craig Ramsay, breaking down the left wing, was tripped by Robert Picard and the puck slid slowly ahead of him, toward the goal. Inness went down unnecessarily and the puck somehow slipped under his pads into the net.
On a positive note, rookie Ryan Walter scored both Washington goals to run his season total to 13. His first score created a 1-1 tie in the first period, but the outcome was almost assured by the time he connected early in the third to reduce the Sabres' margin to 4-2.
The only other positive item was the fact that Charron decided to wear a helment in early December.
"I got hit on the head in a couple of games and things weren't going well, so I thought maybe if I wore a helmet I could mix it up more," Charron said. "I'm sure glad I did. It's an awful feeling when you don't remember anything.
"I don't remember whether I hit a stick or just fell into the boards. The only thing I remember is when they took me to the dressing room."
Only 10 seconds remained in the second period when %charron apparently lost his balance behind the Washington net and fell backward, his body landing on the ice and his head striking the boards. He lay unconscious, then was taken off on a stretcher. He revived in the dressing room and declined an invitation to spend the night in a hospital.
"When you think about wearing a helmet, what you wonder about is whether you appear afraid," Charron said. "But something like this makes you realize that anything can happen when you play this game. In a situation like that, when you have no control, and you land in a corner, the shock goes right to your head.
"The helmet I'm wearing is not the most secure helmet. It's light, but it does gove me protection. Some give more, but for someone like me who had not worn one before, a light one seemed best. It bothered me least. That hit shook me up pretty good and now maybe I'll get a better one."
Edberg was cut as he circled behind the Buffalo net and tried to jam the puck past Don Edwards.
"I went around and tried to put it in the net and I guess the defensemen must have hit me with his tick. I didn't see who it was."
Newell blew the whistle while Smith lay on the ice, nullifying an apparent goal by Jim Schoenfeld.
"It hit me right on the kneecap and I went down," Smith said. "I wasn't about to get up. It still hurts but it should be all right tomorrow. I've been hit twice, by Martin on the knee and by Errol Thompson on the ankle. They've got about the hardest shots around."