The potential for an international incident went unrealized last night at Capital Centre but the promise of an exciting hockey game was fulfilled as the Capitals and Moscow Dynamo battled to a 5-5 tie.
Whether for Capital loyalty or political rationale, most of the 7,369 fans enthusiastically cheered the home team throughout. When Bob Sirois' second goal and fourth point of the night sent Washington in front, 5-4, with 9:21 left, the place was bedlam.
The Soviets dampened the party, as they have done so often in hockey wars with North America, when Vladimir Semenov reached far out to deflect a long shot into the net with 5:58 to play. It was a spectacular move, since defenseman Paul MacKinon seemingly had Semenov sealed off, but it was only one of many great plays on this memorable night.
"This game against the Russians was more important than any game in the regular season," said Sirois, playing his first game for Washington since Dec. 1. "It is the fourth time I've played them in my career and the second tie, I've never beaten them. But we feel we should have won.
"Coming back to the dressing room after the second period we heard the fans cheering us and it got us going. Then Gary Green gave us a good pep talk. We thought we'd win it."
Sirois' second goal resulted from a 33-foot drive and on the next shift the line of Antero Lethtonen, Wes Jarvis and Mark Lofthouse kept the puck in the Soviet end for more than a minute, until the visitors were forced to ice the puck while the fans howled. Except for the last 10 minutes of the first period, when they encountered problems, the Capitals maintained that intensity all night.
"You have to keep up the intensity," Coach Green said. "If you all of a sudden treat a game as if it has no meaning to it, it could come back and haunt you. You might not get the old feeling back and I want this team to keep on playing the way it played in Minnesota the other night."
Guy Charron, reunited on line with Sirois, also contributed two goals to the Washington attack and said, "I have a lot of respect for these guys and when I play hockey against them, I want to play my best. We took pride. aWe knew it meant something to our fans."
Leif Sevensson, later to leave with a pulled groin muscle, and Paul Mulvey heated things up with some solid checks on the first few shifts. Then Charron, with Sirois setting a screen, blasted a 30-footer past Dynamo goalie Vladimir Myshkin and was rewarded with the first standing ovation of the night.
Suddenly, the Capitals slowed up as if the first goal had settled things. By period's end, red-line hanger Aleksandr Maltsev and Vasili Pausov had givenDynamo a 2-1 edge.
Three times in the second period the Captials fought back to tie the game. Sirois connected from the left-wing circle, off Charron's face of success, to make it 2-2.
Later, following Alexei Frolikov's go-ahead score, Charron was handcuffed on a breakway. But he hung in and netted a rebound of a Sirois blast for a 3-3 deadlock.
After a weak shot by Yuri Lebedev trickled past screened goalie Gary Inness, making his first appearance since Dec. 12, Lofthouse knotted it once more with a 40-foot drive and celebrated by banging his stick on the glass. It was only 31 seconds before the intermission and the Captials left with both momentum and adulation.
"I like this team more than all the others (we played)," Soviet Coach Vitali Davidov, through interpreter Mikhail Grachev, said of the Capitals. v"I like this team, I like its tactics and I like its playing. They are a more European-style team than the others."
Earlier, after a 6-2 jet-lag loss to Vancouver, Dynamo had thrashed Winnipeg, 7-0, and Edmonton, 4-1. This was the finale of the tour and Davidov said, "Our players are a little tired." The comment brought a grin and rolled eyes from Green, standing nearby.
The only incident that threatened to abort the friendly character of the on-ice action occured early in the second period.
Vladimir Golikov tripped Mike Kaszycki, the third man on the Charron-Sirois line, and cut Kaszycki above the right eye as the Capital fell. Kaszycki rose and went after Golikov with a forearm smash. They were quickly separated and escorted to the penalty box to serve minors.
"He pulled me down and when I was on the ice he stuck me," Kaszycki said. "I put my stick in his face and gave him a shove. It wasn't much to get penalized for. The guy apologized afterward, so I guess I can't be mad about it."
Although Dynamo received a physical pounding, the only Soviet display of temper was furnished by Myshkin, who threw the puck into the stands after Charron's second goal and receiv ed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Perhaps the ultimate tribute to the outstanding play of the two teams was furnished by Tom Rowe, the Capitals' only American player. Rowe did not play because of a charley-horse, but he watched from Section 110. At the finish, he was standing, applauding just as loudly as everyone else.