Disregard everything I sent earlier" was the message wired to a New York newspaper's sports desk from Capital Centre shortly after 10 p.m. Saturday.
The reporter had prepared a clever article descirbing the futulity of the Washington Capitals, inserted a few details on the way the New York Rangers had built a 4-0 lead in the first two Periods and was contemplating the ride home.
Unfortunately for him, so were the Rangers. Meanwhile, in the Washington dressing room, a funny thing had happened. Coach Gary Green, the psychology major from the University of Guelph, had actually convinced the Capitals that they were going to win Eureka!
Defying logic, reality and the normal expectations of the 12,068 fans, Washington rattled off five unanswered goals to record a 5-4 victory.
"I've never been on a team before that came back from 4-0 in the third period to win," said Mike Gartner, whose goal, and two assists helped make him the No. 1 star. "Usually you're just trying to make it respectable. mBut when we came out it was almost like we knew we'd win."
"Gary talked to us between the second and third periods and every individual in that room sucked it up," said Paul Mulvey, who recorded the winning goal. "I don't think we could have been stopped."
What did Green say to promote such confidence in a team that had won one game in its last 16 and seemed so close to another 10 count? Had he threatened them with a bicycle ride to Hartford on Wednesday?
"I just pointed out that we didn't want to hear the reaction of that big crowd if we played another bad period," Green said. We didn't want to be chased off the ice. Most of the team was back tonight and this had to be the start of things. There are no more excuses."
The Rangers applarently were thinking of tonight's encounter with Philadelphia by the time Rick Green's long shot clanged off the post into the net to put the Capitals on the board with 16:59 left in the game. A minute later, Mark Lofthouse's drive ricocheted off goalie John Davidson's stick to Wes Jarvis, who quickly made it 4-2.
When Gartner deflected Robert Picard's blast into the net with 9:31 remaining the crowd was screaming "Let's go, Caps!" and the Rangers were panicking. New York captain Dave Maloney went off for interfering with Gartner and Rolf Edberg tied it, converting Bengt Gustafsson's perfect pass.
Then Mulvey deflected Mike Kaszycki's shot with 5:14 left and 12,068 people were ready to believe in miracles. Especially after a saving play by Pierre Bouchard in front of rookie goalie Rollie Boutin. Bouchard, out since Nov. 2, and Guy Charron returned from the injured list.
The Capitals were given a rare day off yesterday by the prodigal psychologist and General Manager Max McNab commented, "We give the team a day off after we win, the Stanley Cup and after a game like that one."
Today the team will assemble after practice for the annual Christmas party. When Santa Claus shows up, nobody will tug at his beard to see if it is real. After Saturday night's game, everyone is a believer.