The Washington Capitals feasted on a smorgasbord of glad tidings last night. Down, 2-0, after one period, the Capitals swarmed over the Los Angeles Kings, 6-2, and proved for the second straight game that 100 percent effort can overcome adversity.
Rolf Edberg, whose two goals Sunday included the winner over the New York Islanders, matched that feat. Leif Svensson, his Swedish compatriot shifted back to defense from an experimental wing position, was on the ice for all six Washington goals. Svensson was voted No. 1 star, Edberg No. 2.
For an added Swedish treat, the Capitals learned that winger Bengt Gustaffsson, whom they drafted in June, had been signed by Edmonton of the World Hockey Association after a date specified in the merger agreement that prohibited such a singing, so next season they figure to have three Swedes in the lineup.
The way Edberg and Svensson tossed the puck around last night, the folks may be waving Swedish flags at Capital Centre. The fourth goal was an absolute marvel, topped only by Greg Polis' solo dash against the Rangers, as Edberg crossed the blue line, dropped a pass to Svensson and then skated into the slot to take the return for an easy score.
"I'm not going to tell them anything," Coach Danny Belisle said of the Swedes. "The way they moved the puck I've never seen it before, so there's probably nothing I can teach them. I'll just pat them on the back."
There were other heroes for Washington. Yvon Labre played another superb game on defense and his fine pass set up Paul Mulvey for the first goal. Blair Stewart scooped up a bouncing puck and lifted it over goalie Ron Grahame for the tying score. Dennis Maruk scored one goal, his 31st assisted on two others and joined linemate Edberg in a game of keepaway. Jack Lynch swept past the Los Angeles defense and carried the puck right into the net, where he crashed over Grahame.
Not among the stars were Robert Picard, Bob Sirois, Tom Rowe, Greg Polis-all injured and unable to contribute this time. So their teammates picked up the slack.
"This is unbelievable," Belisle said, "to come from behind like this with all the key personnel we've got out. It's timee to praise these guys, because they deserve it."
None deserves praise more than Svensson, who came into a different hockey world and found little sympathy during a difficult adjustment period. Yet, despite taunts from fans, not a few snide remarks from team-mates and the problems of trying to skate the wing, Svenson never stopped trying to please.
Last night, with Picard idled by a bruised shoulder, Svensson was back on defense most of the game and if Belisle does not leave him there, he may be faced with more of those "Goodby Danny" pennants one of which surfaced in the closing minutes last night.
"I guess I'm a defenseman," Svensson said, laughing. "With lots of wingers injured, he thought I could fit on the wing because we have lots of good defensemen. I don't care.
"If every night was like this, there would be no problem. There has been a lot to get used to, particularly all the travel; that's been the toughest so far. I hope I improve more next year.
"I got burned a couple of times playing offensively and for a while I was too scared to play my game. But I like to try a little more offense. To night was easy, with all the wingers coming back and letting us stand up. And I could make my rushes, knowing somebody would help out.
"Everybody is trying to make a good ending. I think in the first period all of us were waiting for something.
"Then between periods everybody was talking and we wanted to show people it was not an accident, the Islanders' game. And we wanted to show them we're not as bad as it shows in the standings."
The standings do not look so bad today, because the Capitals hopped over Detroit into fourth place in the Norris Division. In the process, they captured the season series from Los Angeles for the first time, 4-3-1.
Mulvey and Stewart netted their seventh goals just 21 seconds apart early in the second period to match Los Angeles' first-period scores by Charles Simmer and Dave Taylor (No. 43).
Edberg won it as he skated in close at Grahame's left and converted Maruk's accurate pass through the slot. Then Edberg and Svensson brought down the house. CAPTION: Picture, Goalie Jim Bedard and defenseman Yvon Labre of the Capitals try to keep the puck and center Vic Venasky of the Kings out of the net. Venasky got in but the puck didn't. By Richard Darcey-The Washington Post