In the moment of the Washington Capitals' greatest need, goalie Mike Palmateer came up with one of his marvelous games tonight. Palmateer faced 45 shots, which matches the highest total against Washington this season, and stopped 43 as the outplayed Capitals salvaged a 2-2 tie against the Chicago Black Hawks.
The tie was worth a most important point for Washington, which retained 15th place by one point over Pittsburgh, a 7:30 visitor to Capital Centre on Thursday.
Much like a boxer who lacks a finishing punch, the Hawks shot themselves out over the first two periods, as a barrage of 38 produced only a 2-1 lead. After Chicago's Tim Higgins hit the crossbar and Palmateer and defenseman Howard Walker blunted two-on-one breaks early in the third period, the Capitals moved to the offensive.
Rookie Tim Tookey, recalled from Hershey on Monday, won a faceoff from the Hawks' Glen Sharpley and fed Mark Lofthouse, another Monday recall, in the slot. Goalie Tony Esposito stopped Lofthouse's backhander, but Alan Hangsleben was able to jam the rebound in to tie it with 10:11 remaining.
The Chicago Stadium crowd of 9,382 implored its heroes to battle back, but instead Washington dominated play the rest of the way and only Dennis Ververgaert's failure to lift the puck, on a setup by Tookey, extended the Capitals' winless streak to nine games.
Tookey also played a key role in the first Washington goal, firing a backhander from the slot that caromed off a defender and wound up on Ryan Walter's stick. The Washington captain put it in for his 22nd goal, fifth in the last five games.
The Capitals, who had yielded five goals in the second period of their last two games, gave up only two this time, despite a 22-shot barrage by Chicago. Both Hawk goals came from within three feet of the net.
On the first Keith Brown ducked inside defender Darren Veitch and passed into the slot. The puck struck the skate of defenseman Rick Green and rolled against the post, bouncing back far enough for Higgins to push it in.
On the second, Denis Savard rapped the puck into the net after Palmateer had placed his glove on it, and the goalie briefly protested to referee Bob Myers.
"My glove got on it and he swiped at my glove and knocked it in," Palmateer said. "I was tilted back and I couldn't get any weight on it."
Washington has been exploited by Chicago rebounds before. Since the Hawks like to fire away from the point, the Capitals this time pulled their wings back, to help clear the rebounds from the slot area. As a result, they were conceding many shots that inflated the Hawks' total.
"They can't score on me from there (the point)," Palmateer said. "We've given up a lot of rebounds, so we worried about the slot first and the points second. I didn't care about the shots. When you're feeling good, you just say let them keep shooting, keep them coming."
Palmateer has been in the nets for the three highest shot figures against Washington and the Capitals have not lost any of the games. He made 42 saves to beat Toronto, 7-3, and had 44 stops in blanking Philadelphia, 6-0.
More recently, Palmateer gave up eight goals in 40 minutes 34 seconds Sunday against Quebec, in an 11-7 loss.
"The first four or five goals Sunday weren't that bad," Palmateer said. "I just started to get so frustrated when they kept pouring them in. From now on, I'm going to have a lot of games like this one."
"Palmy led the charge for us out there," said Coach Gary Green. "They must have been frustrated after those first two periods. Palmy's been struggling, but he told us he was going to do it tonight and we have full confidence in him over the last 20 games."