Bengt Gustafsson, the baby-faced Swede with the magical moves, created an uproar among 10,357 Capital Centre fans last night by scoring two memorable goals against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Most of those fans will be trying to erase other memories of the contest, however, because the Leafs would up 5-3 winners in a game they dominated physically from start to finish.
The ice was even worse than usual, with pools of water in the Toronto end forcing a 10-minute delay in the start. But not even soft ice can slow down the swift Swede wearing Washington's No. 16.
In the game's fourth minute, Gustafsson stole the puck from his nation's most illustrious player, Borje Salming, and sailed in on a breakaway.When Toronto goalie Mike Palmateer cam out, Gustafsson drilled the puck past him.
"He (Salming) missed the puck because there was water on the ice," Gustafsson said. "That is only the second time I have ever played against him and it was a good feeling to score on him like that."
"He has lots of moves," Salming said. "If you look at the puck, he'll put you in the corner. The way to stop him is to take the body."
"I shouldn't have come out," Palmateer said. "If it had been any other guy, I'd have got him. But he put on a couple of pretty good moves and beat me."
Midway through the second period, Gustafsson boosted the Capitals into a short-lived 3-2 lead with an even more sensational score.
With each team a man short Gutafsson went around defenseman Gren Hotham, pulled Palmateer out and backhanded the puck behind him. As the fans roared, Hotham smashed his stick over the crossbar.
"He put a move out there on one young kid on defense who won't forget it for a long time," said Toronto Coach Floyd Smith. "I won't let him forget it."
Gustafsson created two more excellent chances that were not successful. He broke free after taking Rolf Edberg's clever deflection of Paul Mulvey's clearing pass, but Palmateer knocked the shot wide. And, on another move around Hotham, coupled with a pirouette out of Darryl Sittler's clutches, Gustafsson could not put enough on the shot to get it past Palmateer, who dove off balance to smother the puck.
"I learn a lot of things all the time," Gustafsson said. "The size of the rink is a big problem for me, because there are no corners in Sweden. The play is rougher here, but the skating is coming better all the time and Rolf and I understand one another very well."
Gustafsson banged his left elbow against the boards as he swiftly skated to avert an icing call. He said he should be ready to play in tonight's game in Pittsburgh (WDCA-TV-20 at 8 p.m.)
Not so fortunate are center Guy Charron and defenseman Leif Svenson. Charron pulled a thigh muscle in practice Thursday and departed in the second period last night when he could not skate properly. Tonight will mark the first game he has missed in Washington after playing 245 in a row. Svensson pulled a muscle in his hip and will be replaced tonight by Rick Green, who has recovered from a bruised ankle.
"I thought I'd be okay and it didn't feel so bad if I was just skating around," Charron said. "But when I wanted to jump for the puck, that extra push wasn't there. I had it strapped after the first period, but I finally told (Coach) Danny (Belisle) to take me out, because I wasn't helping the team."
Belisle berated the ice crew after the first period and said later, "Home ice like that is no advantage to us. We're supposed to be a team that can really skate, but when the ice is soft it makes for a scrambly game."
To which Smith replied, "It's like throwing sand on a baseball field. It makes slow guys go slower."
The Leafs, who checked hard and effectively in the offensive zone, enjoyed a 41-26 edge in shots. Williams scored the tying goal and Dan Maloney the winner under ironic circumstances in the second period before Sittler hit an empty net to clinch it with his second goal of the game.
Williams punched Robert Picard, who reflexively swung his stick and hit Hotham in the head. Picard was assessed a major penalty to a minor for Williams, who was back on the ice to convert the ensuing power play.
Maloney grabbed Bob Sirois from behind and spun him around in a wrestling hold. He was not penalized, however, and was available s seconds later at the other end to deflect Dave Hutchinson's shot from the point.