Goaltender Gary Inness, playing back-to-back games for the first time in more than two years, stopped 37 Montreal shots last night and the Washington Capitals came up with a 2-2 tie kept the Canadiens winless in their last five visits to Capital Centre.
Mike Gartner and Dennis Maruk set each other up for the Washington goals, which came 110 seconds apart in the second period and gave the Capitals a 2-1 lead.
Mario Tremblay's deflection created the final score with 15:38 remaining in the game and Inness and Montreal's Richard Sevigny made some big stops the rest of the way as neither team wanted to settle for one point.
If proved a most valuable point for the Capitals, however, as Hartford erased a 3-1 deficit in the final period to deadlock Toronto, 3-3. Washington is in 17th place with 62 points, just one point behind both Toronto and Edmonton.
"That's been playoff hockey the last two games," Washington defenseman Rick Green. "We've showed we can go with the best and we know what we're capable of doing. We've got everything to gain now."
Inness, who had 30 saves in Saturday's 3-3 tie with St. Louis, stopped 15 shots in a scoreless first period last night. He had some help from the posts behind him, as a matter of inches frustrated Montreal twice. Yvon Lambert hit the short-side post from the left-wing circle and Rejean Houle's shot rebounded off Inness' stick into a post.
"I knew things were gong to go right after that first one," Inness said. "He fooled me completely. I was leaning toward the far post and he went short side and really had me beaten. I misplayed the second one, because it was off-net and I let it hit the inside of my stick. When that went off the post, too, it was a bit of a confidence builder."
Montreal scored first, 40 seconds into the second period, when Chris Nilan deflected a perfect pass from Doug Risebrough after Doug Jarvis had stolen the puck from Bengt Gustafsson.
Three minutes later, the Capitals received a big gift from referee Wally Harris.He sentenced Brian Engblom to two minutes for tripping Gustafsson, the bounced Nilan as well for griping. That presented the Capitals with a two-man advantage for a potential two minutes and they needed only 40 seconds to tie the score, Gartner scoring his 41st on Maruk's pass from behind the net. The goal extended Gartner's club-record streak to 12 games with at least one point.
"He let two penalties go before that against them and that's what I told him," Nilan said of his costly faux pas. "I didn't swear, I just told him to look both ways."
Fired up by their first score, the Capitals quickly jumped in front as Gartner outfought Montreal's Rod Langway for the puck behind the Canadiens' net and passed out to Maruk, who converted the chance for No. 44. c
Howard Walker then was penalized for elbowing on a play that sent the crowd on 13,213 into a rage. Harris was knocked down behind the Washington net and, on his knees, signaled a penalty a moment after Maruk blocked a shot by Serge Savard and then was tripped by Savard to prevent a breakaway. With everyone expecting punishment for Savard, Walker was the man penalized.
Walker no sooner came back on the ice then he was sent back in the box for verbal complaints at Harris.
"Mario Tremblay ran me in the corner and I was yelling at him (harris), asking about that one, and he sent me off," Walker said. "I was just arguing, no bad language. And that first one was no elbow, anyway. Besides, he came down with us.I don't see how he could see it."
Some excellent work by Dennis Ververgaert, Tim Tookey, Green and Pat Ribble kept Montreal's power play scoreless. But early in the third period, Tookey could not handle a Ribble pass and Risebrough got the puck. He dropped a pass to Lambert, who made a perfect goal-mouth feed to Tremblay.
Inness, who had no chance on either goal, was playing two days in a row for the first time since March 10-11, 1979, when he beat St. Louis and tied Detroit. Since then, he had seen infrequent service here and in Hershey.
"I'm very, very tired," Inness said. "I got up this morning, ate as many pancakes as I could and went back to bed. I was not better when I got up at noon, but I slept some more this afternoon and by the time I got to the rink my legs were coming back.
"You're always happy when you feel you've made a contribution. I never want to let these guys down."
It was a mutual admiration society, with players patting and praising Inness long after the contest.
"It's great to see him come up and do so well," Maruk said. "Maybe he's got something to prove and he's showing some people they made a mistake. We just have to play as well as we can in front of him."
Montreal, which played without Guy Lafleur, Steve Shutt and Pierre Mondou, has been tied four times and beaten once in its last five trips here, although the overall series stands at 34-1-5.