On Sunday night, Washington television fans can watch "Jaws." Tonight they were offered hockey's version, as the Minnesota North Stars chewed up the Washington Capitals, 7-1.
Besides the carnage on the scoreboard, the Capitals were dealt two more blows on the medical report. Defenseman Pierre Bouchard watched from the press box with a cracked sternum that will keep him idle indefinitely. fThen defenseman Paul MacKinnon was whisked off to the hospital for X-rays after a puck caught him in the face. It was feared he might have a fractured cheekbone.
"Every time we turn around, every game we play somebody gets hurt," Washington Coach Danny Belisle said.
Only addicts of Capitals' telecasts have seen disasters like the one tonight. It was 5-0 before the first period ended and the clicking off of Washington television sets must have created a surge in area power stations.
Ironically, the Capitals' Friday night tie in Winnipeg was not televised because of prohibitive costs. Televising tonight's fiasco probably cost the club a lot more -- in ticket sales.
Following last season's 1-13-1 TV record the Capitals revised their TV scheduling to include more beatable opponents, but they apparently forgot to notify the first three foes of this seson -- Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Minnesota.
Minnesota scout J.P. Parise watched Friday's game in Winnipeg and noticed the way Washington had difficulty handling the Jets' two forechecking wingers in the final period. So the North Stars used the same tactic tonight.
Washington goalie Wayne Stephenson stopped 17 shots in the third period tonight. Minnesota fired a total of 22 at him, however, so Stephenson was invited to sit down after the first 20 minutes.
Gary Innes became the first relief goalie of the season and was touched for a goal on the first shot that came his way, before the Capitals stablized matters and eventually wound up with a 37-36 advantage in shots.
Minnesota goalie Gilles Meloche was as hot as Stephenson was cold, making some remarkable saves on Bengt Gustafsson and Guy Charron before Rolf Edberg converted a Lief Svensson setup in the third period to avert a shutout.
The Scandinavian line of Gustafsson, Edberg and Antero Lehtonen totaled 13 shots, but it was also icebound on five Minnesota goals. Gustafsson twice lost the puck to set up North Stars' scores, once by skating into Lehtonen.
MacKinnon, superb in Winnipig, was out for the first six Minnesota goals before he was assigned ambulance duty.
Stephenson became the first Washington goalie to play two nights in a row and he did not match his fineform form of Friday. The first Minnesota goal, by Glen Sharpley, caromed off Stephenson after it was shot from an impossible angle. Stephenson then muffed long shots to surrender the third and fifth goals, by Gary Sargent and Craig Hartsburg.
"They leaked a couple through and gave us fits in the first period," Belisle said. "But it's not the scoreboard that bothers me. These injuries have taken away all our depth.
Bourhcard was rammed against the boards by Winnipeg's Jimmy Mann Friday night and had difficulty getting up. Still, the postgame diagnosis was strained neck muscles and a bruised upper chest, with odds of "99 to 1 there are no broken bones."
X-rays taken here today, after Bouchard suffered through a sleepless night, showed otherwise and recalled a similar error on Sunday in Edmonton, where Dennis Maruk's torn knee ligament was termed "only a bruise."
"It only hurts when I laugh," said Bouchard, who has had no reason even to smile, missing seven games with a groin pull before this injury occured. "Things had just started to come for me. I was skating better and I was feeling more comfortable out there. Now I wonder whether I'd have been better off to stay in the restaurant business."