For the second straight game, the Washington Capitals have tied a championship team. Unlike Tuesday night, when they were disheartened about that 2-2 deadlock with the Montreal Canadiens, the Capitals tonight were delighted to escape with a 1-1 standoff against the Winnipeg Jets, last Avco Cup winners in the World Hockey Association.
The Jets, now a scorned NHL expansion club, outshot the Capitals, 17-3, in the final period, but were foiled by the outstanding play of goalie Wayne Stephenson.
Stephenson, who had been struggling, yielded a rebound goal to jude Drouin at 5:07 of the first period and was invincible thereafter, earning the game's No. 1 star and praise from all concerned, including Winnipeg Coach Tom McVie.
"He really did play well," McVie said."I guess they felt they had to get somebody like that back there to make a run at the playoffs."
"It's been long time coming," said Stephenson, who took a 4.83 goals-against mark into the contest. "The season has started slow and hopefully this will start a turnabout. I'm glad to see it. They stuck with me and let me play and that was nice. And the team's behind me. That helps a lot, too."
With the good news of Stephenson's apparent return to top form came the usual bad news. This time it concerned defenseman Pierre Bouchard, who scored the only Washington goal less than three minutes after Drouin connected.
Bouchard was rammed into the boards by Winnipeg's Jimmy Mann, the NHL penalty leader, after Bouchard touched the puck on an icing call late in the second period. Bouchard did not return and is unlikely to play Saturday night at Minnesota (WDCA-TV-20 at 9 p.m.).
"It's like a whiplash in the the neck," Bouchard said. "The nerves and tendons feel strange. When it happened, my whole left side was all numb and I couldn't get up. I couldn't move my neck and my head felt like 500 pounds."
Mann was incited to violence by some rugged hits he received from Washington's Ryan Walter. On one occasion, Walter knocked Mann into the Winnipeg bench, in the same manner he dumped Montreal's Rich Chartraw on Tuesday.
The Capitals played a tight defensive game for two periods, then played giveaway throughout the final 20 minutes. In the second period, Winnipeg was limited to four shots and disgusted fans in Section 5 chanted, "Take it back, NHL" and "Turkey," followed by simulated gobbles.
In the third period, the fans' displeasure was turned on referee Alf Lejune and the two linesmen, Gerard Gauthier and Ron Finn. At best, it may be said they did not distinguish themselves.
Neither did Bobby Hull, the 40-year-old Golden Jet who returned to the Winnipeg lineup for the first time since Oct. 18, 1978, and was appearing in his first NHL contest in 7 1/2 years.
Hull skated out at the 1:19 mark, saluted by rewarding cheers and a number of signs, including one beauty: "He's back." He was obviously rusty and was glad afterward that he had not contributed to a defeat.
"I'm happy we got a point and I'm glad I played as much as I did," Hull said. "I was able to get my feet wet and I'm pleased I didn't break up a winning combination. I would have hated to lose the game because I wasn't able to do some things as fluently as I did before. It will take a number of games before I get my timing and conditioning back." "I'm pleased with him," McVie said. You have to remember he's been off the game a year and he's only been practicing six days. He didn't look out of place. Once he's on a regular line, he'll really contribute to our hockey club."
McVie had several stitches under his left eye, the result of a puck fired by Craig Norwich during this morning's practice.
No longer popular with his former pals in Washington defenseman Paul MacKinnon, who spent much of the game sparring with his old roommate, Morris Lukowich. This morning Winnipeg General Manager John Ferguson presented ex-Jet Mackinnon with his Avco Cup ring.