The sparks flew at Capital Centre last night and by the time the last red light had been doused, the Washington Capitals were 8-6 winners over the Los Angeles Kings.
A blown fuse created an overloaded circuit on a catwalk high above Section 107 during the third period and the resulting sparks sent the fans below racing for safety.
Section 107 is in front of the goal the Capitals were attacking in the final period and for most of the session that was about all the action those fans saw.
With 5:43 remaining, however, and the game tied at 6, Guy Charron took a clearing pass from Lief Svensson and broke through center. He avoided a check by defenseman Barry Gibbs and, using rookie King defender Jay Wells as a screen, sent a drive between Wells' legs and over the left shoulder of goalie Mario Lessard.
Goalie Wayne Stephenson made a fine stop on Mike Murphy to preserve the 7-6 lead and with 33 seconds left Dennis Maruk pushed Peter Scamurra's long, high pass into an empty net to wrap it up. the goal was Maruk's seventh, high in the NHL.
"I got off a good shot at the right time," Charron said on his first goal of the season. "A lot of times you take those and it hits a pad or goes wide, but that one went right in. I don't think Lessard ever saw it, the way he reacted."
Goals by Bengt Gustafsson Ryan Walter, Robert Picard, Mike Gartner and Tom Rowe gave the Capitals a 5-2 advantage late in the second period. Then Washington's Yvon Labre was chased for throwing the Kings' Dave Taylor to the ice and Doug Halward netted his second power-play goal to narrow the gap.
Charlie Simmer closed it to 5-4 at 1:08 of the final period. Labre made his amends with a perfect clearing pass to Gustafsson, who took it just short of the red line and beat Lessard on a breakaway for a 6-4 lead and his second NHL goal.
Just 23 seconds later, Simmer scored again from the left-wing circle. And, when Washington's Gord Lane was bounced for elbowing, Taylor produced his second goal and the visitors' third extra-man tally.
With the third period half over and Los Angeles holding a 15-3 edge in shots, the Capitals' chances seemed slim. many in Capital Ceptre's smallest-ever hockey crowd of 5,386 were booing or shouting, "Change the goalie!"
Instead, Charron and Stephenson induced a change in attitude.
Coach Danny Belisle's decision to start Stephenson, after Gary Inness had played so brilliantly Sunday in New York, raised more than a few eyebrows and Belisle offered little insight into his reasoning.
"I just thought he was the guy," Belisle said. Then he tried to defend himself by saying. "Both goaltenders played a hell of a game. If they hadn't played so well, the score could have been 13-12. Those weren't the same shots as in New York."
Both teams did play loose hockey in their own zones, but several goals by each side seemed reasonably easy to handle. Certainly, Inness stopped some of greater difficulty during the Rangers' 20-shot first period.
Los Angeles would up with a 20-9 shooting advantage in the third period last night and the Kings were flying at the end, surprisingly so for a team that might have been expected to be bothered by jet lag. The breakdown by the Capitals must be a source of concern, with seven of the next nine games on the road.
Gartner, besides collecting his first NHL goal, suffered a charley horse in his right thigh when he was checked by Taylor's knee at center ice in the second period. Helped to the dressing room, Gartner returned for the final period.
Bob Sirois of the Caps was assessed a 10-minute misconduct penalty late in the game for disputing referee Charles Banfield's failure to stop play with the puck jammed along the boards. It will cost Sirois $50 and guarantees that he will exceed his previous one-season high of six minutes in penalties, but he was relieved not to draw an unsportsmanlike conduct minor that would have given the Kings another power play.
Besides the 14 goals that counted, Banfield washed out two apparent scores, both in the first period. Rolf Edberg kicked one on for Washington and a drive by the Kings' Butch Goring was disallowed because Simmer had a skate in the crease.
The Kings' Marcel Dionne recorded four assists and became the 27th player in NHL history to collect 800 career points.