The Toronto Maple Leafs sharpened their hockey sticks on the Capitals in the first period tonight, then used them the way Lord Stanley intended and carved out a 6-2 victory that stretched Washington's longest winless streak of the season to nine games.
The Leafs were penalized nine times in the first 20 minutes, six for high sticking, and the principal casualty was the Capitals' Rick Green, who departed with a bruised right eyeball after Darryl Sittler whacked him below the eye.
Sittler received only a minor penalty because referee Gregg Madill considered it accidental, but the Capitals wondered whether the sixth high stick of a period was totally excusable.
I asked him whether he would have got five minutes if he put my eye out," Green said. "He grazed the eye with his stick, but there's no bleeding, so I guess it'll be okay. My vision was blurred and it took quite a while before I could see things.
It's still kind of fuzzy."
Robert Picard sent the Caps into an early lead, converting one of six power-play opportunities in the first period. It was Picard's 20th goal and he became the 14th defenseman in NHL history to reach that figure. Bobby Orr did it seven times and his 46 goals are still a season high.
"It's nice to have 20 goals, but it would be nicer to be in the playoffs," Picard said.
Picard was a television guest after the second period and grumped, "We came home after a tough road trip to play Detroit and because we weren't able to play very well, we got rapped in the papers for not giving 100 percent."
IT WAS ODD TIME AND AN ODD PLACE TO AIR SUCH A COMPLAINT, BECAUSE IT CAME AFTER A PERIOD IN WHICH THE CAPITALS DISPLAYED AS LITTLE EFFORT AS THEY HAD ALL SEASON.
TORONTO SCORED THREE TIMES AS IT OUTSHOT WASHINGTON, 17-4, OVER THE MIDDLE 20 MINUTES. IT COULD HAVE BEEN A LOT WORSE. WITH GREEN GONE, THE CAPITAL DEFENSE WAS EXTREMELY LOOSE AND THE LEAFS SWEPT IN FOR NUMEROUS BREAKS INCLUDING A TWO-ON-NONE ON WHICH PAT BOUTETTE MISHANDLED PAUL GARDNER'S SETUP. JOHN ANDERSON SCORED A MOMENT AFTER MADIL BLEW HIS WHISTLE TO STOP PLAY BECAUSE HE LOST SIGHT OF A LOOSE PUCK.
BUT JIMMY JONES COLLECTED HIS FIRST GOAL IN 33 GAMES, GARDNER REGISTERED HIS 26TH OF THE SEASON AND IAN TURNBULL NETTED HIS 11TH TO SEAL THE OUTCOME.
DESPITE THE CAPITALS' SORRY EFFORT, COACH DANNY BELISLE WAS SUBDUED, AND DID NOT REPEAT HIS SCATHING REMARKS OF SUNDAY.
" WE JUST GOT OUTPLAYED AND WE DESERVED THE OUTCOME," BELISLE SAID. "THEY TOOK OVER IN THE SECOND PERIOD AND THAT WAS THE BALL GAME. IT'S A LITTLE DIFFICULT AT THIS POINT MANUFACTURING LINES WITH THREE GUYS OUT LIKE (BOB) SIROIS, (TOM) ROWE AND (GREG) POLIS."
WITH THE SCORE 1-1 IN THE FIRST PERIOD, THE CAPITALS WERE PRESENTED A FOUR-ON-THREE SKATING ADVANTAGE FOR FOUR MINUTES AND COULD NOT SCORE. IN ONE SWIFT SEQUENCE, ROLF EDBERG HIT A GOAL POST, DENNIS MARUK BANGED THE CROSSBAR AND PICARD STRUCK ANOTHER POST.
EDBERG FINALLY COLLECTED HIS 10TH GOAL IN THE THIRD PERIOD AND MARUK ASSISTED FOR HIS 83RD POINT, A CLUB RECORD THAT ECLIPSED GUY CHARRON'S 1976-77 MARK. RYAN WALTER ASSISTED ON PICCARD'S GOAL FOR HIS 50TH POINT, BREAKING NELSON PYATT'S 1975-76 CLUB SCORING RECORD FOR A ROOKIE.
FOR THE LEAFS,TIGER WILLIAMS MANAGED AN ASSIST FOR HIS 200TH NHL point and Anderson banged in a third period goal that counted to celebrate his 22nd birthday in proper style. It was Anderson's first score in 21 games.
Cap goalie Jim Bedard learned early what kind of a night faced him, as Ron Ellis swept in on a breakaway at the 20-second mark. Bedard stopped him and then Dave Burrows shot wide on a similar break a few minutes later.
Picard's goal raised Washington hopes of an end to the current slump, but Toronto's power play, fourth best in the NHL, evened things as Lanny Mcdonald collected his 35th goal.
The game quickly became very uneven and a Toronto writer commented, "These guys look like the old Caps." What a horrible thought!