The Washington Capitals outhit the Boston Bruins last night, to the delight of 17,921 fans, largest National Hockey League crowd of the season. On the scoreboard, however, the result followed the pattern of so many Capital endeavors this fall -- a 2-2 tie.
Brad Park's power-play gboal with 5:42 remaining closed the scoring, after Washington twice had forged one-goal leads. But there were more thrills before the result was final.
With 2:49 left, Alan Hangsleben fired the puck at the Boston net. It was loose in front and, as Paul Mulvey hacked at it, Ryan Walter raised his stick in apparant celebration. It was premature, because the little chunk of frozen rubber never did get past Boston goalie Rogie Vachon.
"Vachon was down and Mo (Mulvey) was jabbing at it and it hit him (Vachon) here," Walter said, pointing to his hip. "They got a little funky there, but we had some breaks, too. I thought it was a heck of a hockey game."
Few would argue that point. The game was a real treat for all those folks who jammed Capital Centre in numbers rarely seen before the close of the football season. The teams went up and down, checking hard and clean and often, and each hit a couple of posts in addition to giving the goaltenders a workout.
Vachon has been playing brilliantly during the Bruins' current unbeaten streak that stretched to seven games and he had some memorable saves among a total of 27 last night. Wayne Stephenson stopped 25 at the other end for a Washington team that has lost only one of its last seven.
"Even though we tied, I was happy with the effort," said Washington Coach Gary Green. "I thought we had a bit of an edge there in the third period and the guys came into the dressing room a little down. The guys wanted to win. That's a hell of a sign, when the guys get their heads down after a tie with Boston."
This was the 29th meeting of the teams and Washingtin has won only one, with this contest marking the seventh tie.
Bob Kelly sent the Capitals in front at 3:58 of the first period, banging in a rebound of a shot by Dennis Maruk, who fired seven at Vachon during the game. It was Kelly's fourth goal and it held up until the first minute of the third period.
Then Boston's Steve Kasper, a 19-year-old center who was drafted in the fourth round and expected to be back with his junior club in Sorel, Quebec, this season, knocked in his club-leading eighth goal for the Bruins.
Rick Middleton dug the puck out of the right-wing corner and passed out to Kasper, who was left unguarded in the slot and made the most of the opportunity. The goal was no. 11,000 in the Bruins' 56-year history.
Wes Jarvis put Washington back in front with 9:26 left in the game, steaming down the middle to beat defenseman Larry Melnyk to a rebound of a shot by Pat Ribble and beating Cachon from close range fro his second goal.
"We were making a line change and I was the first guy on," Jarvis said. "As I jumped on, the puck came to Rib and I circled, knowing Rib would shoot it in. I had a full head of steam and the defensemene were standing at the blue line. I don't think Rogie or the defensemen saw me. It came right out to me and I banged it it."
It was not yet time for celebrations, though. Hangsleben tripped Middleton with 6:36 remaining and the Bruins took advantage, Park drilling home a 35-footer after Stephenson had foiled a Middleton breakaway and blocked Middleton's deflection of a Wayne Cashman pass.
Washington's power play continued to disappoint, failing in both opportunities to run the record of failure to 4-for-42. But there were some frenetic moments during a second-period penalty on Melnyk.
Walter hit a post on a Gartner setup, Vachon was handcuffed by a Bengt Gustafsson shot but Maruk mishandled the rebound and then Jean Pronovaost shot wide from close range.
Hangsleben, Walter and Ribble dealt some devastating checks to the Bruins, with Melnyk and Stan Jonathan hammering some of the Capitals.
"There were a lot of good solid hits," Green said. "Jonathan nailed Veitcher (Darren Veitch) in the second period, but it was a good clean check and we gave quite a few of the same right back."