After enduring a nightmare, a 10-3 defeat to the Canadiens, the Washington Capitals will return to daylight Sunday to close out another season of unfulfilled promise.
Pierre Bouchard will make his Washington debut in Sunday's 1:35 p.m. curtain call against Pittsburgh at Capital Centre. Nobody was complaining about the brief interval between games, because it afforded as little time as possible to dwell on tonight's massacre at the hands of Montreal.
Guy Lafleur, playing about 50 minutes, collected six points, the Canadians' single-game high for the season. Pierre Mondou added his second career hat trick, the first coming in an 8-4 victory at Capital Centre Feb. 4.
The Capitals were displeased with Montreal's attempt to pile up points for Lafleur, who now trails the Islanders' Bryan Trottier by three entering the final day of the regular season. Montreal Coach Scotty Bowman even juggled lines to keep Lafleur away from Ryan Walter, Dennis Hextall and Blair Stewart.
"If Scotty keeps playing him like that one more game, he might be dead," said Washington Coach Danny Belisle. "What's more important, points or wins?"
By achieving both, the Canadiens remained one point ahead of the Islanders in the struggle for first place overall and the odd home game should the two meet in the Stanley Cup final. It was the Capitals' upset of the Islanders last Sunday that gave Montreal its opportunity.
"We put them in first place by beating the Islanders and they lay it on us when they know they've got a team that's hurting," said Washington General Manager Max McNab. "Well, this franchise will be around a long time and I'm sure our opportunity will come."
The Capitals were handicapped tonight by the absence of two of their more physical defensemen, Robert Picard (bruised shoulder and broken nose) and Gord Lane (pulled groin muscle).Yvon Labre was a heroic figure on the Washington back line, battling to the end, but the Capitals were simply outmanned.
It took only 17 seconds for Montreal to score. Doug Risebrough escaped Walter's check on the left wing and sent a centering pass toward Mario Tremblay. The puck struck the skate of Washington's Rick Green and caromed past goalie Jim Bedard.
"I couldn't have kicked it any between," Green said."They couldn't do anything wrong. They're tuning up for the playoffs and they would have to tune up on us."
Some fancy footwork at the other end lifted the Capitals into a brief tie. Labre fired from the left point and Craig Patrick, trying to deflect the puck, swung and missed. But it hit Patrick's skate and skipped past goalie Michel Larocque.
The first of four power-play goals by Montreal, and the first of Mondou's trio, sent the Canadiens ahead to stay. Mondou had completed his hat trick and the score was 7-1 before Washington produced another score, and it was equally tainted.
Mark Lofthouse drilled a shot off the glass behind the Montreal net and the puck flew out over the cage. Bob Girard, skating in at full speed, kicked it into the net.
"That was unreal," Girard said. "I get one like that every year and I was due."
The crowd of 16,724 was displeased with referee Alf Lejeune for permitting the score, but the game was so one-sided the Canadiens registered only a minor protest. Then they helped Washington to its third score.
Jack Lynch shot from the right and the Canadiens' Serge Savard deflected the puck, with Guy Charron barely tipping it with his stick as it slipped past Larocque.
Aside from Lafleur's point parade, the crowd had one more moment of excitement in the third period when Stewart was awarded a penalty shot after he was tripped from behind by Larry Robinson. Larocque stopped Stewart's drive with his blocker.
Stewart's failure ended a string of three successful Washington penalty shots. The club in its five seasons has made three of five, while opponents have succeeded on only two of 10.