The Washington Capitals got more than a fair share of the breaks tonight. That delibitating winless streak remained unbroken, however, reaching 13 games as the Capitals succumbed to the Quebec Nordiques, 7-4.
This defeat hurt more than most, because Edmonton deadlocked the New York Rangers, 5-5, and earned a share of 16th place with Washington. Each team has 54 points, but the Oilers have more victories and, technically, now possess that final playoff berth.
Mike Gartner scored twice for Washington, equaling the 36 he recorded last year in his final NHL season. Pierre Bouchard and Bob Kelly netted the others, Kelly collecting his 150th career goal and tying his best-ever season of 22, posted in Philadelphia in 1976-77.
"All that goal means is that we've lost 13 in a row," Kelly said. Then, when it was pointed out there were four ties in that sorry streak, Kelly continued, "Same thing. Night after night without a team point. It's pretty humiliating."
While the Capitals were losers once again, they were not embarrassed, as they had been on Stupor Sunday in Landover, when the Nordiques won 11-7.
Tonight the Capitals fell behind four times and caught up the first three. It took a spectacular play by 5-foot-8 Robbie Ftorek to end that pattern and boost the Nordiques to a 5-3 advantage early in the third period.
Bouchard tried to clear the Washington zone, but Ftorek raced to the blueline and stretched himself to the limit of his height and beyond, stopping the puck with his glove. He then fed Real Cloutier, whose 30-footer beat goalie Dave Parro.
"That exemplifies our type of luck." said Washington Coach Gary Green. "Bouchard shot that high enough and for a little guy like that to jump that high, he must have had springs in his ankles."
Gartner came flying down the right wing to beat Quebec goalie Dan Bouchard with a whistler into the far corner. Parro earned his first NHL assist on that one, which cut the deficit to 5-4 with 15:39 left.
It took the Nordiques just 18 seconds to rebuild the two-goal margin after Washington's Tim Tookey was chased for tripping Ftorek. Marc Tardif, behind the Washingtoin net, passed out to Cloutier in the right-wing circle and he hit again to make it 6-4. Anton Stastny's second goal of the game, into an empty net, completed the scoring.
"We were in the ball game, but we just don't have the second-effort drive," Kelly said.
The Capitals got off to their usual bad start, as Quebec's first shot on goal, fired by Michel Goulet as he crossed the blueline, sailed past Parro.
"It deflected off our defenseman's (Darren Veitch) knee pad, it was a rising shot and I lost it in the crowd," Parro said. "I was hoping it would go wide. The first shot you want to get a save in. But the way we've been going, I'm not really surprised."
"I could have just cried when that went in," Green said. "The way we're starting off almost every game, they get a fluke goal that puts us behind the eight ball."
Outshot 38-20 overall, the Capitals were fortunate not to have lost by more. Ftorek hit the post on a breakaway, Peter Stastny deflected a shot off a post, Parro made a great stop on a breakaway by Anton Stastny and the Nordiques shot wide on a number of other good scoring chances.
The biggest break the Capitals received came from referee Kerry Fraser, who disallowed an apparent power-play goal by Jacques Richard with Quebec leading, 4-3. Fraser sent Goulet off for interference, bringing the wrath of the 14,801 fans down on his head. A few material objects, such as shoes, sailed down, too.
"Their second goal was a power play and they had a guy standing in the crease," Green said. "I'll bet the officials supervisor (Matt Pavelich) talked about it to Fraser after the first period. When it happened again, he spotted it, but it should have been the case the first time."
Judging by the crowd's reaction, had Fraser disallowed two goals, the game might not be finished yet.
During their 13-game slide, the Capitals have yielded 75 goals. In the last 10 games they have given up 63, permitting fewer than six on only two occasions. No matter how many other things a team is doing right, it is difficult to win with those figures.
Green said he and General Manager Max McNab would spend the next two days discussing possible moves. And he said of the possiblity Rollie Boutin might be called to the goaltending rescue: "I guess we've got to examine that. Gary Inness is available, too, although Rollie has been playing most of Hershey's games."
The Capitals played without defenseman Rick Green, who suffered a bruised right hand in Tuesday's 6-3 loss to Calgary, and right wing Mark Lofthouse, suffering severe spasms in his lower back.