Coach Gary Green of the Washington Capitals stood in the lobby of the Chicago Marriott yesterday morning, raising a glass of orange juice to his lips, when a man bumped him, dumping the juice on Green's raincoat, and charged onward without a word of regret.
A hockey team on the road frequently runs into strange bumps and funny bounces, one reason why home teams in the National Hockey League last year won more than 61 percent of the games that went to a decision.
Among those statistics was the strange story of Washington and Chicago, with the Capitals twice recording four-goal victories at Capital Centre, where they have a 6-5-1 lifetime edge, and the Hawks prevailing by three and four in Chicago, where Washington has not won a game in five years.
That pattern continued Sunday night, as the Hawks breezed to an 8-4 success, aided by one of the unfunniest bounces ever seen on a hockey rink. It came when Capital Paul Mulvey, trying to pass from behind the Chicago goal line, sent a 175-foot drive that hopped past Mike Palmateer and into the Washington net.
There was no laughter after the disappointing game, Washington's first road venture of the season, but by yesterday morning the Capitals were merrily looking ahead to tonight's 7:30 rematch with the Hawks at the Centre.
Players tried to goad Green into avenging the spilled juice and 12 hours earlier he might not have needed persuasion. There was much laughter as Dennis Ververgaert whipped all comers in a portable pinball game. And there was good-natured ribbing of Pat Ribble, whose massive frame was used by Chicago shooters to deflect three goals into the Washington net. Mulvey and Palmateer endured their share of wisecracks, too, over that unbelievable goal.
"They should have let me give the goal to the Hawk of my choice," Mulvey said. "I could have helped Grant's point total."
Grant Mulvey is Paul's older brother and once again they were matched against each other, Grant at right wing and Paul on the left side.
There was a forgettable fight involving 10 players and an apparent drunk waving a Hawk pennant, who skidded across the ice and attempted to separate Grant Mulvey and Pierre Bouchard before being hustled to a think tank. Both Mulveys were involved, although not in beating up each other, and announcer Ron Weber said, "I don't know if Mrs. Mulvey is listening in Western Canada, but her boys have been bad again."
A year ago, Paul served 240 minutes in penalties, Grant 122, and there are memories of Paul barreling Grant into the boards and Grant taking a wild reflexive swing at his younger brother.
The two spent a couple of hours together after the contest, then had a longer meeting last night, after the Hawks arrived in Washington. Grant brought along a supply of the sausage the brothers like so much, but there will be no brotherly love after tonight's opening faceoff.
"I'm certainly conscious that it's my brother I'm checking and it's a little eerier feeling than you'd usually have, but I don't think there's any letup in intensity when we're out there together," Paul said.
"I'd really rather be going against someone else, but I can check Grant and if Gary wants to match our lines, he shouldn't do it any differently just because we're brothers."
Sunday's matchups were the responsibility of Chicago Coach Keith Magnuson, but Green opted for similar pairings last season and said he might do the same tonight, while reserving the possibility of a shift. The home team has right of last change and thereby controls the matchups, an important factor in home-ice advantage.
"We did it last year and it was successful," Green said. "They play hard against each other. I can remember Paul blasting Grant into the boards. There is no easing up by either one of them."
Emotion plays a key role in the outcome of hockey games and Chicago was spurred Sunday by the presence of 13,790 fans who came to honor Stan Mikita on the night the Hawks retired his No. 21. Green thought the Capitals were equal to the Hawks in mental preparation and was disappointed.
There were 33 penalties in the game at Chicago, which meant reduced ice time for Paul Mulvey, Alan Hangsleben and Bob Kelly. That should make them even more eager to hammer the Hawks tonight.
Mike Gartner was named NHL player of the week and will receive an award Friday night. . . Guy Charron, idle Sunday with a sprained ankle, is expected to play tonight. . . Ryan Walter called Chicago fans "the worst in the league if the Ranger fans aren't. They were throwing dimes and pennies; hit one of them and it's all over". . . Capital players have contributed $3,000 to Harold McLinton, an initial $2,000 gift and $500 for each victory thus far.