It was one of those days the Washington Capitals thought they had left in the history books.
It started off badly, at 10 minutes past midnight, when the Capitals climbed off their bus at Baltimore-Washington International Airport and learned their charter flight had been delayed because of high winds.
It finished even worse, with the St. Louis Blues scoring three goals on only four shots in the third period to thrash the Capitals, 6-2. Defenseman Jack Brownschidle provided the funeral march by connecting twice, 54 seconds apart.
In between, there were some forgettable moments, too. Finally taking off 12 hours late, after an overnight stay in a Hanover, Md., motel, the Capitals were shaken when their two-engine propeller plane bounced around in the wind as it banked following takeoff.
"That was all I needed. I was looking for the back door," said goalie Wayne Stephenson, who dislikes flying and could hardly have imagined that things would be even more unpleasant in the Checkerdome.
Landing here, the plane taxied to the wrong area and, after the players got off, they were forced to reboard and taxi elsewhere. Eventually, their hotel stay was limited to 2-1/2 hours, which was enough for Coach Gary Green. He shaved.
Things did not improve on the ice. Wayne Babych converted Bernie Federko's setup after just 6 minutes 8 seconds and the Capitals never caught up, although they twice reduced two-goal deficits to one and seemed to be charging toward a tie in that final period.
Bengt Gustaffson intercepted a Brian Sutter pass and scored on a well-executed give-and-go with Wes Jarvis to trim the St. Louis lead to 3-2 with 15:38 remaining. The Blues had been held without a shot, with play almost entirely in the Blues' end, and the crowd of 13,423 was getting worried.
Then Tony Currie came out from behind the Washington net and poked the puck off Stephenson's pad and over the line. It was the only St. Louis shot of the first 12 minutes, in which Washington fired nine at the Blues' Mike Liut.
Brownschidle connected from the left-wing circle at 13:38 and then whacked in a high one from longer range at 14:32. From there, the game deteriorated into a series of cheap shots that did not even cease at the buzzer, as battling Gary Rissling of Washington and Neil Komadoski of St. Louis were surrounded by curious teammates.
Babych's goal was a clue that the game would continue as the day had commenced. The Blues, although sub .500 are now 22-4-7 in games in which they have scored the first goal.
Blake Dunlop deflected Bryan Maxwell's drive early in the second period to make it 2-0. Then Ryan Walter put the Capitals on the scoreboard, cutting from behind the St. Louis net to beat Liut with a backhander off the far post that caromed into the net.
It was Walter's 22nd goal and it was booed lustily, since the fans felt Walter should have been chased moments earlier for holding Rick Lapointe.
St. Louis rebuilt its lead by mounting a three-on-two break while Mark Lofthouse was at the Washington bench seeking a new stick. Larry Patey scored it on a rebound of Ralph Klassen's shot.
Liut, driven from the net during the Capitals' 7-5 victory in Washington March 5, made a big save on Gustafsson late in the second period and, although the Swede beat him in the third, Liut was so sharp that the fans repeatedly chanted his name.
In climbing within one game of the .500 mark, the Blues boosted their point total to 72. They are the NHL's most improved team, having recorded only 48 points all last season.
Rookie Harvie Pocza, making his NHL debut in place of injured Bob Sirois, played a regular shift alongside Dennis Maruk and Lofthouse in the first period. Rissling replaced the youngster in the last two periods as Green tried in vain to find a scoring combination, instead watching his charges drop their second decision in as many nights after going unbeaten in seven games.