The second coming did not measure up to the first. Alan Hangsleben was royally cheered by his hold Whaler fan club tonight, but the Washington Capitals proved too travel weary to crown his homecoming with victory as they did for Mike Palmateer Saturday in Toronto.
Hartford's Al Sims, the one-time Boston defenseman now operating at left wing, collected two goals and two assists as the Whalers won their fourth exhibition in a row, 9-4.
Paul Mulvey sent Washington ahead after just 47 seconds, the third straight game in which the Capitals have scored a first-minute goal. They lacked the spark to follow it up this time, however, and the third game in three nights -- a grueling assignment, forbibben during the regular season -- proved their downfall.
This was the first loss in seven exhibitions for the Washington regulars. The Capitals' other preseason defeat came as second stringers faced Pittsburgh while the big team was flying home from its tournament triumph in Sweden.
A pair of excellent passes by Mark Howe enabled Bernie Johnston and Sims to lift Hartford into a 2-1 lead. Then Hangsleben earned loud applause from the 8,108 fans by poking in a typing score as Rolf Edberg passed the puck from behind the net.
The tie proved only temporary. Sims, who had scored from the left wing earlier, fired a long power-play drive from the left point past a screened Wayne Stephenson in the closing minute of the first period, and Washington never again was able to catch up.
Jordy Douglas hit for Hartford in the first minute of the second period, then Washington's Dennis Maruk cut the margin to 4-3 off a Bob Kelly setup. Ray Neufeld beat Stephenson with a high shot from the slot before Dennis Ververgaert made the most of another Edberg feed to trim it to 5-4.
The roof fell in on the Capitals during the third period, as Michel Galaneau, Steve Alley, Glenn Merosky and Warren Miller scored for Hartford. Washington, meanwhile, was managing only three shots.
The Capitals pride themselves on their conditioning and had dominated the third period of all previous exhibition games. This ninth period in three nights, for largely the same group of players, was too much for pride, however. The Capitals, so brilliant throughout the preseason, suddenly looked like a team that wanted nothing more than to get home and star playing for keeps.
Hangsleben spent five years with the Whalers before he was dealt to Washington for Tom Rowe in January and this was the Capitals' first visit to Whaler country since that trade.
Friendly folks posted signs all around the Civic Center with such sentiments as "Hartford Luvs Hank . . . Hank + Hockey = Happiness . . . We Luv #10 Past & Present." Neufeld wears No. 10 here now, but of course it once belonged to Hangsleben.
With Bengt Gustafsson resting a bruised back, Hangsleben took a rare turn at penalty killing duty. He also banged a few of his old pals around, although he was unable to match the physical play of captain Ryan Walter, whose punishing checks made him the villain of the night.
The Whalers scored three of their goals on extra-man opportunities, as referee Gregg Madill whistled the Capitals for eight of the 13 minor penalties in the game.