The Washington Capitals confirmed tonight that the best offense is a good defense. Defensemen scored the first six goals, most from close range, as the Capitals began exhibition play with a 7-3 rout of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Pierre Bouchard and Rick Green netted two goals apiece and Paul MacKinnon and Robert Picard collected singles. Right wing Mark Lofthouse put the forwards on the board in the final period.
"Instead of just standing there, they were jumping in holes," Coach Danny Belisle said. "They weren't doing that before. Butch (Bouchard) jumped in and Greenie was reacting the way he did in that last game in training camp.
"You don't react like that unless you've got the percentage, but they were open and they took advantage of it. I knew this club had goal scorers, but I guess I had the wrong guys in mind."
Bouchard was playing in the same rink where his father, Emile (Butch) Bouchard, broke his shoulder during an exhibition game in 1952.
"I remember him telling me that," Bouchard said. "He stepped on a coin and went right into the boards. I'm glad things were more pleasant tonight.
"The forwards were playing well around the net and keeping them busy. That's what gave us so many chances."
Green scored twice Thursday night to help the Senators win the President's Cup in the intrasquad tournament at Hershey and he continued to press when openings presented themselves tonight.
"I don't think I'm hesitating as much as I was before," Green said. "I was holding back a little bit, playing it safe, and it wasn't working out too well. I intend to take a few more chances when I'm sure I can do something with it."
The game was delayed four times to permit the players to skate around and disperse a fog created by high humidity and the voices of 3,418 fans, most of whom were expressing disappointment with the Penguins.
"We want Denny" resounded more than once from the stands in remembrance of Denis Herron, the popular goaltender who was dealt to Montreal for goaltender Bob Holland and right wing Pat Hughes. Holland gave up three goals in 30 minutes and looked shaky, while Hughes, along with several of his teammates, appeared enveloped by fog.
Jim Bedard, although not severely tested, made some excellent stops in a 30-minute effort that yielded only one goal, on a deflection off the crossbar. Wayne Stephenson started and was touched for a pair of power-play scores.
The Capitals used six defensemen, Picard paired with Gord Lane, Green with MacKinnon and Bouchard with Leif Svensson. In each case, the pairing proved effective defensively as well as the scoreboard, with Pittsburgh granted few breakaway opportunities.
The game was marred by three fights with both Dennis Hextall and Paul Mulvey tangling with Penguin rookies Bennet Wolf. Gary Rissling renewed an old feud with Kim Clackson, a Penguin reclaim from the World Hockey Association.
Right wing Dan Erickson and defenseman Kevin Tendler, both junior players out of Saskatoon, scored the goals earlier today as the Washington Capitals rookies battled the Philadelphia Flyer rookies to a 2-2 tie in Hershey.
Erickson and Jim McTaggart, a 19-year-old defenseman from Billings, were the standouts for Washington. Bart Hunter and Rick Sirois shared the goaltending duties and each was beaten once.
The Capitals will play a doubleheader at Hershey Saturday night against the New York Rangers, with the rookie game beginning at 6 and the varsity exhibition at 8:30. Capital fans are advised to forget the handkerchiefs, because the Rangers will be leaving Phil Esposito at home.
The Capitals dropped eight players today, reducing the roster to 61. There were no surprises in the group, which included defensemen Brad Holt and Mark Toffolo and forwards Jack Lowry, Larry Mensour, Terry Flanagan, Brad Becker, Ralph Keller and Rod Heisler.