Quebec Coach Michel Bergeron, a most superstitious man, should have sought out a crap game last night. The Nordiques, thanks to three hat tricks and Bergeron's lucky jacket, undressed the Washington Capitals, 11-7, at Capital Centre in the highest-scoring game in which the Capitals ever have participated.
Peter Stastny had four goals, his brother Anton three and Jacques Richard three. If one team ever had three hat tricks in a game before, it does not come to mind or record book.
For the Stastnys, this was the second straight game in which both had hat tricks, and the odds are considerably longer that no two brothers ever did that before. With Peter adding four assists last night and Anton five, the expatriate Slovaks finished their two-game weekend with 27 points.
"It was fun and I play hockey for fun," Peter Stastney said. "I don't care about scoring. I like to win. If everybody plays to win and not for himself, it's okay. The team is playing well and that makes it easier to play."
The Nordiques had a lot of fun this week, since Bergeron bought a new jacket Tuesday in Denver. With Bergeron wearing it at every game, the Nordiques have won at Denver (6-3), Los Angeles (4-2), Vancouver (9-3) and Washington. That puts Quebec in a 12th-place tie with the New York Rangers at 55 points. Washington with 53, is 15th and falling fast.
Right now Bergeron's jacket smells about the same as the Capitals' defense. Washington had a 19-man defensive breakdown last night, after signs of same had appeared in previous contests on what has become an eight-game winless streak. While the Stastnys deserve credit, some debits were due in the other dressing room.
"When you get 11 goals scored on you, you have to ask about the defensive concentration of everybody on the ice," said Washington Coach Gary Green. "We're all in the boat together and if that didn't tell us something out there tonight I don't know how many more clues we need on what to do as a team."
Three power-play goals helped the Gapitals stay within striking distance until late in the second period. Then, with 1:34 remaining and the Nordiques ahead, 5-4, disaster struck.
Paul Mulvey, who escaped a penalty on a flagrant charge at one end of the ice, was less fortunate at the other. As he skated toward the penalty box, he was taunted by an earlier occupant, Quebec's Kim Clackson.As Mulvey went for Clackson, the Nordique tossed his stick onto the ice. Then the Nordiques' Wally Weir jumped Mulvey from behind and there was general disorder.
Although noboy left the players' benches, referee Ron Wicks elected to terminate play at that point, adding the time to the start of the third period. tHe later said it was to provide both a cooling-off period and time to add up the penalties.
The total came to 118 minutes, with Mulvey, Clackson and Weir ejected. More important, Washington was assessed three minor penalties: Mulvey for charging, a bench minor because Mulvey did not go directly to the penalty box and a bench minor for the brawl. Quebec received just one minor, for the melee. That left the Nordiques with several power-play chances and they made the most of them.
With the situation complicated by delayed penalties and a holding call on Darren Veitch, who came back from Hershey yesterday, Quebec was able to score four power-play goals within 2 minutes 16 seconds after the teams returned from the dressing room.
Mike Palmateer, Washington's starting goalie, left after the third of the extra-man scores, at 0:34 of the third period. Reliever Wayne Stephenson was beaten on the first two shots he faced, both by Richard, and the second, at equal strength at 1:33, gave the Nordiques five goals in 2 minutes 42 seconds.
"If there was anything we didn't want to do before that game started, it was to get caught in four-on-three situations against a team with a 40 percent power-play percentage in the last seven games," Green said. "Mulvey's penalty certainly put us in jeopardy, but he was not the only one deserving of blame by any means."
The crowd of 10,346 was considerably thinned by disgusted fans heading for the exits. Those who remained, however, suddenly began dreaming of a miracle, as Washington scored three goals in the next six minutes, two by Bengt Gustafsson, to close to 10-7 with 12:39 remaining. There were plenty of chances to get an eighth before Peter Stastny wrapped up the scoring with five seconds left.
"You can only come back so far," Green said. "I don't know why we're always having to come back anyway."
Green griped about Quebec's second goal, scored by Anton Stastny at 9:46 of the second period to give the Nordiques a 2-1 lead. Stastny's shot from the left-wing circle struck the crossbar near the left post and the puck dropped to the ice, then skidded along the goal line until Washington's Ryan Walter fished it out just short of the right post.
Wicks stopped play and ruled a goal, although he was not in an ideal position and goal judge Roger Reinke declined to turn on the red light. Television replays, although inconclusive, did not show the puck over the goal line.
Quebec did not get another shot on goal for almost 13 minutes, but when it did the shooter once again was Anton Stastny and this definitely was a goal. The Nordiques netted their 11 goals on only 33 shots, Washington its seven on 30.
The Nordiques have been pouring in goals since right wing Buddy Cloutier asked to be taken off the Stastny line in Denver. Michel Goulet moved in at left wing, with Anton Stastny moving from left to right.
"I never score so many since we change lines three or four games ago," said center Peter Stastny. "With Anton on the right side it is like playing at home with Marian (an older brother who stayed in Czechoslovakia). Marian used to be the best scorer, Anton was second and I was third."
There was one redeeming feature for the Capitals. The total score erased from their record book the previous total of 16, recorded in a 14-2 loss at Buffalo in 1975.