The Chicago Black Hawks gratefully accepted what may have been the longest shot into an attended goal in NHL history tonight and rolled to an 8-4 victory over the Washington Capitals.
Chicago unloaded 40 shots, 13 more than any previous Washington opponent, but it was a shot that wasn't that will be remembered longest by the 13,857 fans who came out to salute Hawk great Stan Mikita on the night his No. 21 was retired.
With the Capitals trailing, 3-2, early in the second period and a Washington power play coming to a close, Paul Mulvey attempted a pass to teammate Rick Green from behind the Chicago goal line. The puck got past Green and slid all the way down the ice before hopping past goalie Mike Palmateer.
The Chicago Stadium ice is 188 feet long, 12 feet shorter than Capital Centre, and with 10 feet behind the Washington net, the goal figured out at 175 feet. There have been some longer into open nets, but memory does not bring forth one of such length past a goaltender. Greg Fox, last Hawk to touch the puck, was credited with the score.
"It went right along the ice until it was two feet in front of me and then it hit something on the ice and popped a foot and a half over my glove and stick, hit me in the hip and went in," Palmateer said. "Those things happen. Every goalie has goals like that -- well, maybe not quite like that.
"I gave up a goal to Barry Beck a few years ago when he was on the bench. He centered the puck and it took a crazy bounce and got by me. You can't worry about them. I won't think about it too long. How about all the ones I stopped?"
Mulvey did not follow the puck and was startled at the roar of the crowd that signaled its passage into the record books.
"I just tried to get it to Greenie (Rick Green), because the high slot was wide open," Mulvey said. "I had my head down and all of a sudden I heard cheering. I didn't see the puck go in."
Palmateer said he scanned the ice for some article that might have caused the crazy bounce, but found nothing. The ice was littered with junk all night, however, and when a fan carrying a Chicago pennant came out to try to join a 10-man brawl in the third period, it merely completed an evening of the absurd.
"You may have seen things out there tonight you'll never see again in hockey," said Washington Coach Gary Green. "Every time we tried to do something it turned to stone.
"I think it's a disgrace that a game could get out of hand like that -- debris on the ice, a security system so vulnerable a lunatic can run on the ice. You don't know, he might have had a switch-blade or something. He was obviously drugged out. And there were whistles in the crowd, guys stumbling around in toilet paper on the ice.
"I'm glad Mr. (NHL President John) Ziegler was here to see it. Maybe he can do something. But that's not the reason we lost. It just made a bad game worse."
Ziegler was present to join in honoring Mikita, first Black Hawk to have his uniform retired in the 54-year history of the club. There was a 20-minute ceremony honoring Mikita, including a lengthy standing ovation for him and boss for Ziegler, Hawk President Bill Wirtz and former Chicago general manager Tommy Ivan.
When the game finally began, Chicago's Tom Lysiak received most of the cheers. He recorded an unusual hat trick -- one goal at equal strength, one on a power play and one shorthanded. With two assists thrown in, Lysiak enjoyed a five-point night as the Hawk goal total matched the yield of Washington opponents over the first four games.
Mike Gartner and Dennis Maruk scored for Washington 73 seconds apart in the first period to give the Capitals a 2-1 lead, but Lysiak connected twice before the first intermission to send Chicago ahead to stay.
The Hawks fired 32 shots at Palmateer in the first two periods and it was little wonder that Palmateer invited reporters into a remote corner of the bathroom after the game, saying, "You're welcome in here, but I'm afraid I'm just too tired to move."
Ryan Walter scored twice for Washington in the third period to complete a forgettable day for him. His sports jacket became coated with grease while stowed in an overhead compartment on the flight here and in the second period his head absorbed a pounding as he and Chicago's Dave Hutchison exchanged haymakers for almost a full minute.
In another odd aspect of a game that contained 33 penalties, both Palmateer and Chicago goalie Tony Esposito were credited with assists.
Washington played without center Guy Charron, who suffered a sprained ankle in Saturday's 8-2 victory over the New York Rangers. He was replaced by Wes Jarvis, called up from Hershey on an emergency basis. Jarvis was expected to remain for Tuesday night's return match with the Black Hawks at Capital Centre.
"It'll be a different story Tuesday night," Gary Green promised.