The Washington Capitals battled their way into an almost defenseless situation, then battled from behind with four goals in the final period to defeat the Colorado Rockies, 8-6, last night at Capital Centre.
The Pyrrhic victory, which Washington General Manager Max McNab called the wildest of the century, extended the Capitals' unbeaten streak to seven, tying a club record, but it left Washington in a sorry situation to seek a first-ever victory in Boston tonight (WTOP-1500 at 7 p.m.).
Defenseman Rick Smith suffered a broken right index finger blocking a shot in the first period. Then, in a thrid-period brawl that produced 184 minutes in panalties, both Pat Ribble and Alan Hangsleben were among eight players directed to the dressing rooms. Bengt Gustafsson moved to the back line and suffered a dislocated left shoulder when he was banged into a goal post by Colorado's Ron Delorme.
Defenseman Jim McTaggart and winger Tony Cassolato were called up from Hershey afterward and will join the survivors in Boston.
The winning goal was recorded with 5:28 remaining by rookie defenseman Darren Veitch, only his second in the NHL. It came on a shot from an impossible angle at the Colorado goal line that caromed off the pad of goalie Al Smith.
"I came around behind and gave a pass to Hound (Bob Kelly) and I wasn't expecting it back," Veitch said. "I was at the red line and when I shot I really had no angle, but it went off his pad and went in.
"It was great the way the guys pulled together. It was good to see us pull a win out with pressure on us. We were missing one of our best lines and half our defense. It was great for me, to play a lot in that situation. I think I play better when I play a lot."
Colorado was given a chance to tie when Pierre Bouchard went off for holding with 2:57 on the clock. But Ron Delorme knocked Gustafsson into the goal post with 1:18 left, drawing an interference penality, and Jean Pronovost completed a hat trick with 17 seconds left, in both an empty-net and power-play situation.
"My shoulder came out and it came back in again, but I don't guess I'll be able to play for a while," Gustafsson said. "I like to play defense in Sweden in the summer, because it's different from froward, and when (Coach) Gary (Green) asked me if I could play it, I said yes. We were talking together back there and I enjoyed it until I got hurt."
Gustafsson's shoulder was strapped and it is not believed he will be out for long; Smith, however, may be idle for a couple of weeks.
"I was hit by a shot," Smith said. "I can stop a shot like that anytime. It was a freak break."
The Capitals built a 4-2 lead in the first period, then played their worst 20 minutes of the season to permit Colorado to move ahead, 5-4. Late in the second period, Mulvey elbowed Ramage and then grabbed the Rockies' defenseman by the neck and threw him to the ice.
Mulvey received a double minor and, after the Capials killed it off without difficulty, Ramage sought revenge by taking a sucker punch at Mulvey. Ramage carried Mulvey into the boards and was on top, pounding away, so Mike Gartner charged to Mulvey's aid. That brought all the players on the ice, except Washington goalie Mike Palmateer, into the melee.
It ended quickly, but the sentences were sufficient to set records for the Capitals, the opposition and both teams combined for both one period and a full game. Washington drew 97 minutes, Colorado 87.
Mulvey and Ramage were assessed five minutes each for fighting. The other eight players -- Colorado's Lanny McDonald, Joel Quenneville, Merlin Malinowski and Ed Cooper and Washington's Gartner, Hangsleben, Ribble and Ryan Walter -- received double misconducts, with Gartner given an additional game misconduct as third man in.
Each team also received a bench misconduct, so for the next two minutes it was four against four. Ten seconds after the miscreants were sorted out, Pronovost stole the puck from Mike McEwen at the Colorado blue line and netted the tying goal with a drive from the left-wing circle. *tSixty-six seconds later Wes Jarvis skated down the right wing, controlled a pass form Dennis Ververgaert and went right on in to beat Al Smith for a 6-5 Washington lead.
A power-play goal by Delorme, with Washington's Dennis Maruk off for holding, tied it a t 6-6, but Veitch had the answer and it was a happy crowd of 12,933 that celebrated afterward.
This was only the third NHL hat trick for Pronovost, although he has scored 377 goals since he entered the NHL in 1968. Both previous hat tricks came against Washington.
"After the guys were kicked out, we were shorthanded and we had to pull together," Pronovost said. "I got that goal and then Jarvie got his goal and it really switched the momentum. This is a team effort and we played like a team even without some of our best players.
"On my last goal, PeeWee (Maruk) was tripped and he still got the puck to me. I just had to push it in, he did all the work.But that's what's so good about this club. It doesn't matter who does the work or who gets the credit, as long as we win."
Oddly, Pronovost's bid for a club record of six straight games with an assist came to an end in a three-goal game. Setting the record was Walter, who assisted on Paul Mulvey's goal at the 55-second mark of the first period and then departed in the third-period melee.
The four goals gave the Roaring Twenties Line of Pronovost, Maruk and Kelly 26 in the last 12 games.