The Washington Capitals left Memorial Auditorium empty-handed again tonight. Their goalie, Mike Palmateer, left with a badly bruised left thumb and probably will have it X-rayed Friday.
The Sabres overcame a 2-0 first period deficit to win, 6-3, and extended their unbeaten streak to 10 games. It was the ninth straight time Washington has failed to win in the Auditorium since Jan. 19, 1977.
At the outset, it was the Sabres who were wounded. Five of their forwards, including leading goal scorer Danny Gare, were unable to play. Gare was beginning a three-game NHL suspension.
But Ric Seiling and Tony McKegney readily covered for them. Seiling scored three times, including an empty-net goal with 1:20 left. McKegney tipped in two shots by defensemen.
Palmeteer's injury extended the streak of injuries that has plagued games between the Capitals and Sabres. In previous games against Washington, Buffalo lost Rick Martin (knee) and Gilbert Perreault (broken ribs). Both were still missing from the lineup tonight.
Palmateer left early after stopping a shot by Richie Dunn with his left hand. The puck hit the meaty part of the lower left thumb. Normally, he would have his stick in that hand.
"I lost my stick just before the shot," Palmateer said. "I don't know how I lost it. I think somebody skated by and caught the top of it with his sleeve. Anyway, away it went.
"When their guy shot the puck, it was going for the lower corner, so I had to use this hand. Look at the sucker. It's twice the size of the other one. I broke some blood vessels, I think. I'll probably have it X-rayed when I get to Toronto tomorrow."
Despite the gaps in their lineup, the Sabres played well. They got off 41 shots to Washington's 20. Dave Parro, who replaced Palmateer at the 7:35 mark of the first period, faced 35 of the shots.
The Caps, too, seemed to shrug off Palmateer's injury. They broke in front at 9:49 of the first period when Yvon Labre stole a clearing pass by defenseman Billy Hajt and sent a shot from high in the slot past goalie Bob Suave.
Mike Gartner made it 2-0 when he gained control of the puck behind the Buffalo net, sneaked arond and stuck the shot past the surprised Sauve.
Despite the score, the Sabres outshot the Caps, 15-8, in the first period and in the second, they really came out flying.
Parro, who was playing his first game since slightly separating a shoulder, faced eight Buffalo shots in the first 10 minutes of the second period and stopped them all. Meanwhile, the Caps managed one shot.
At that rate, Parro couldn't hold off the Sabres forever. Buffalo broke through when Glen Currie of the Caps went off for tripping at 9:32. McKegney got the goal by tipping Dunn's shot from the left point.
Presented with the first of only three power play opportunities in the game, the Capitals not only failed to put a shot on net, but gave up the tying goal.
Don Luce picked up the puck at center ice after Gartner lost it at the right point. The veteran center skated to the top of the left faceoff circle and beat Parro with a shot into the right corner.
Seiling made it 3-2 after craig Ramsey retrieved Andre Savard's rebound along the left boards and flipped a pass into the slot. The goal at 19:10 was Seiling's 18th of the season.
Only Rick Green's slap shot with three seconds left in the period enabled the Caps to come out of the second period with a tie. Referee Wally Harris had called a delayed penalty against Hajt just before Green's shot beat the clock.
"We didn't play up to our capabilities, but it's no time to panic," said Washington Coach Gary Green.
"With a two-goal lead we should have been able to go out and take charge in the second and third periods. I thought Green's goal, would give us momentum going into the third, but it didn't.
"We kind of went through the motions. We worked hard on some shifts but we were not consistent."
Parro faced 19 shots in the second period and seven in the final.
McKegney broke the 3-3 tie by tipping in a shot by John Van Boxmeer from the blueline on a power play at 9:29 of the final period. It came with Gartner off for a tipping penalty.
Seiling made it 5-3 at 12:27, this one on a deflection of a shot from the point by Mike Ramsey.Then he fired into an empty net for the final goal.
It was not immediately known how serious Palmateer's injury was but Parro had expected to start Washington's next game, Saturday night against the Canadiens in Montreal, anyway.