Chicago goalie Tony Esposito leads the National Hockey League with 25 victories and six shutouts. Neither statistic has been abetted by two visits to Capital Centre.
The Washington Capitals completed a straight-set home-ice rout of Esposito yesterday with their second 6-2 success of the season.
Mark Lofthouse and Mike Gartner each scored two goals, Wes Jarvis collected four points and Rick Green contributed the winner as Washinton posted only its third victory of the year over a top-six team Aside from Chicago, the other came Tuesday against Montreal.
Gartner and Lofthouse lifted the Capitals into a 2-0 lead with goals 21 seconds apart in the first peroid. Chicago tied it before the first intermission, then Green sent the Capitals ahead to stay 40 seconds before the second period ended.
The winning goal came seven seconds after the conclusion of an unsuccessful Washington power play. Green dug the puck away from a pack along the left-wing boards and shoved it out to Lofthouse, who had covered Green's vacancy at the left point, Then Green got his stick on Lofthouse's blast.
"I took a swipe at it in the air as it went by and knocked it from knee level down under his glove. That's the way I saw Guy Lafleur do it," Green said laughing as only winners can laugh.
The Capitals did not try to sit on the one-goal lead, but instead came out for the final period with fangs bared for the kill. After Esposito foiled a Paul Mulvey breakaway and the Caps botched a two-on-one break, Washington scored three times in 2 minutes 22 seconds. Jarvis netted his ninth, Gartner his 21st and Lofthouse his 12th.
"They're way too strong to try to sit on a lead defensively," said Cap Coach Gary Green. "I told the guys to come out shooting. Of course, I told them that in the first period, too."
Washington's first shot of the game came at 7:54 and Wayne Stephenson had blocked eight, to Esposito's two, when Bob Sirois fired a high power play blast off Esposito's shoulder. The puck landed in the crease and Gartner shoved it in to become the Capitals' first 20-goal man of the season.
"That's 20 goals I got that helped the team, that's the way I look at it," Gartner said. "Everybody sets goals he likes to reach, and I want to try to get 30 this year. If I do, that's great. If I don't, then I'm not living up to my expectations."
Lofthouse had a goal, too. He wanted to score on Esposito, after firing six shots that were gobbled up by the Chicao goalie in a 5-2 loss at the Chicago Stadium Jan. 30. Free in the slot, Lofthouse converted a Jarvis pass for a 2-0 lead, then repeated the maneuver for the game's concluding score.
Lofthouse bruised his right wrist when he was struck by the stick of Chicago's Cliff Koroll after unleashing the shot Green deflected past Esposito. It bothered him no more than the slashed hand he suffered while recording his lone NHL hat trick a year ago in Vancouver.
"I wanted to score on that gyn (Esposito) if it killed me," Lofthouse said "I must have had 18 shots in Chicago and he stopped tham all But before I was giving hime time to get ready."
"Now I'm getting my shot away quicker.I got 70 goals in junior and I'm just realizing now that I did it by shooting fast. I've been waiting too long up here. The Chicago defense was giving me the deep slot and I was open a lot and I hit the same spot today, real low. I think maybe Esposito has bad eyesight."
Jarvis could be forgiven if he thought Gary Greens's sight was weak, too, particularly when he was looking in Jarvis' direction. Jarvis, with nine goals (on only 37 shots) and 14 assists, must have the most points-per-minute-played in the NHL. His chances lately have been most infrequent, however, and he admitted to surprise that he saw so much action yesterday.
"We've been going well and I didn't expect Gary to change things," said the 12th-round draft pick who also had a four-point afternoon against Quebec in December. "But he called me over the other day and told me to keep plugging, that my chance would come. I like it here and I'm going to do my best, whether I get two shifts or 20 shifts."
"Certain days Jarvis is hotter than a firecracker and I saw that extra spark today," Green said. "I have to sense who's doing best, Jarvie or Gl (Currie). We've been making up a third line of whoever's going well."
The Capitals left immediately after the game for Denver, where they meet the Rockies tonight (WTOP-1500 at 9:30 p.m.) . . . The Hawks had lost only one of their previous 11 games . . . Gartner hit a post in the closing seconds in a vain bid for a hat trick . . . Gary Rissling made a bri appearance and received a roughing minor. He was recalled from Hershey yesterday, with Tim Coulis going down.