The Washington Capitals are in Vancouver, where weather forecasters promise that it might stop raining before next year. More important to the Capitals is Tuesday night's game against the Canucks, who are packing the fans into Pacific Coliseum after some lean years.
The Vancouver media and fans are pleased with their heroes, who shared fifth place in the NHL entering Sunday's game against St. Louis. That is good news to the Capitals, who found out Saturday night that it is not necessarily favorable timing to be matched against a team that is feeling the wrath of its supporters.
The Montreal Canadiens, stumbling along in eighth place, skated onto the Forum ice Saturday night after enduring the weeklong disaffection of Montrealers following a loss in Edmonton and a most-fortunate, last-minute tie in Quebec. While the target of dissatisfaction was Coach Claude Ruel, the players were prodded by the barbs, too.
The Canadiens rolled up 35 shots in the first two periods against the capitals, yet held only a 4-3 lead on a disputed goal by Mario Tremblay. Then they scored three times on four shots in the final period to salt away a 7-4 triumph, their 19th straight over the Capitals in the Forum.
"Montreal was just sitting there fresh and healthy and they were really flying," said Washington Coach Gary Green. "We had a tough, physical game Friday night and we were a step behind them most of the game.
"We were fortunate to stay close. This was a hell of an experience for Howie (Walker), Darren (Veitch) and Jim McTaggart.They'll never face a faster team."
The trio of rookie defensemen, so impressive in recent games, could not handle the Canadiens' quick blue-line passes, which set up so many three-on-two and two-on-one situations against beleaguered goalie Mike Palmateer. The youngsters also learned a few tricks from Guy Lafleur, who collected four assists.
In a classic maneuver, Lafleur shoved the puck betwen the legs of defenseman Walker at the Washington blue line, skated around him to retrieve it, then fed a perfect pass to Pierrre Larouche in the slot for the third Montreal goal.
"When Guy Lafleur skates by at 2,000 miles an hour and puts a move on you, it's something you won't forget," Green said. "Vancouver is a good hockey club and we have to be ready for them, but they don't have Montreal's speed and at least we'll have a couple of days to get ready. We'll have Yvon (Labre) back, too. We missed him against the Canadiens."
Labre was struck in the right instep by a shot during Friday's 7-3 victory over the New York Rangers and was unable to dress Saturday, forcing Alan Hangsleben to double up as defenseman and left wing.
Despite the Canadiens' territorial dominance, the Capitals remained unconvinced that they should have lost the game. They felt that when the 3-3 tie was shattered, they should have been ahead.
First, referee Bryan Lewis allowed Trenblay's goal, which Capital Jean Pronovost said "hit the crissbar, dropped and stayed on the red line. That's what the replay showed, too."
Then Lewis disallowed a score by Capital Bob Kelly, claiming Kelly kicked it in.