The Washington Capitals extended their club-reacord unbeaten streak on the road to five games tonight. At the same time, their winless streak stretched to six games. If that sounds strange, so was the 2-2 tie with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"It was a strange grame," said Washington Coach Danny Belisle. "We were a little listless and both teams played at the same tempo. We were a little tired and the reaction was just not as quick as last night. I felt dull myself; the travel does that. I know how the guys felt."
On Tuesday, the Capitals played an exciting 2-2 tie with the New York Rangers, a game that turned to heart-break in the last five seconds. This time, only the score was the same.
There were so many offsides and inaccurate shots and passes that the crowd of 8,966 could not keep from booing. Perhaps it had reason. If the Capitals were tried from four games in five days, the Penguins had been blessed by two days off and were returning to home ice with a four-game undefeated streak constructed entirely on the road.
Although enjoying a 37-29 edge in shots -- Pittsburgh varity, the most generous count in the league -- the Capitals twice had to struggle from behind to match goals by Pittsburgh's Rick Kehoe.
After 30 minutes of scoreless, uninspired play, the Penguins broke in front on Kehoe's 22nd goal. George Ferguson, centering Kehoe and Ross Lonsberry in the absence of flu-ridden Orest Kindrachuk, swept out of his own end and bypassed Bob Sirois, Bob Girard and Yvon Labre before feeding Kehoe just outside the crease. Gary Inness had no chance on Kehoe's quick backhander.
Ryan Walter's second goal in 15 games made it 1-1 after 31 seconds of the third period. Guy Charron swept past Pittsburgh defenseman Russ Anderson and set up Walter, who connected despite Gregg Sheppard's colse guarding
Walter was back with Charron and Sirois in the third period, Rick Green moving back to defense, as Belisle elected to go with three lines.
"It was just a hunch," Belisle said. "I thought the way things were going we needed a little change, a little spark, and Ryan made it pay off."
Kehone put Pittsburgh back in front at 4:25, using Green as a screen for a 40-footer.
At 4:39 -- remember the time -- Anderson charged into Washington's Dennis Hextall and received a double minor to Hextall's single for roughing.
Playing four on four, the Capitals unleased a bombardment on Pittsburgh goalie Denis Herron, who was finally pierced at 6:39 after Robert Picard swept fround defender Tom Baldon and fed Dennis Maruk in front.
Maruk's goal was his 29th and enabled him to tie Charron's club record of 82 points. It also ended Anderson's second penalty, which had two full minutes clearly outlined on the scoreboard.
"There was no time left on the Washington player's penalty and the two minutes was showing on the clock to start the Pittsburgh penalty," said referee Dave Newell. "With two minutes on the clock, the penalty is terminated, because when one penalty expries the other must have started. That's the way we've been told to call it."
Belisle, who learned to count a little better than NHL officialdom many years ago, protested bitterly, until Newell finally threatened him with a bench penalty.
"I was furious, but I had to restrain myself," Belisle said. "I couldin't afford a bench minor."
The official sheet showed all three penalties -- two to Anderson and one to Hextuall -- expiring at 6:39.
Charron had a further beef besides the official arithemtic.
"The timer let two seconds run off the clock after the goal was scorded," Charron said. "It was really scroed with 13:23 left, two seconds before the first penalty ended."
The Capitals have had problems with the Pittsburgh clock before, and a game earlier this season lasted several extra minutes because it was not operating properly.
Earlier tonight, a penalty on Washington's Jack Lynch occurred with 13:15 remaining in the second period. There was a faceoff with 11:15 left -- and Lynch still had one second to serve.
possibly the most frustrated Capital was former Penguin Chuck Arnason, who fired six shots at Herron without scoring. Despite some great opportunities, Arnason has yet to scoe a goal in five games with Washington.