The Washington Capitals, frequently frustrated during their first seven National Hockey League seasons, had that familiar feeling tonight in a game in which Coach Gary Green pulled his team from the ice in the third period.
The Capitals were beaten by AIK of Stockholm, 6-1, for their second straight defeat, preventing any chance for a successful defense of their Dagens Nyheter Tournament championship.
AIK built a 3-0 lead during a first period in which it received only one penalty to nine for the Capitals. After Washington's Dennis Maruk produced the only goal of the second period, AIK added two goals, one on a controversial power play, to put the game out of reach.
With four minutes left and the Capitals skating with five men to AIK's four, the Finnish referee whistled coincidental minors. Under NHL rules, the players go to the penalty box but the teams remain at previous strength. The referee, however, insisted that Green take a man off the ice, making the sides four against four, with the AIK penalty delayed.
"It wasn't until then that I realized why we were getting the short end of the stick all night," Green said. "The referee was calling the game by International Ice Hockey Federation rules and we were supposed to be playing by NHL rules.
"I wouldn't send my players out for the faceoff until he came over and talked to me and he wouldn't. Then he gave us a minor for delay and came over to threaten us with another. When I had him by the bench, I told him I had a contract in my briefcase that called for NHL rules, but he said he didn't know NHL rules, only IIHF rules.
"I told him I was taking my team off the ice and he just shrugged and said, 'OK.' The fans were booing us. They thought we wanted to leave because we were getting beat.
"The tournament officials were embarrassed. They talked to the ref and explained he was wrong. Then they asked me to play the last couple of minutes and they said they'd be played under NHL rules. I wouldn't go out unless it was explained to the fans in Swedish that the ref was at fault.
"They did it and I had Gus (Bengt Gustafsson) listen to be sure they got it right and the fans booed the ref this time. But they sure celebrated when AIK got another goal."
Al Jensen and Mike Palmateer divided Washington's goaltending duties, each yielding three goals.
Early in the third period, a Swede took a high shot toward the Washington goal and Palmateer and another Swede swiped at the puck. Palmateer's stick caught the Swede in the groin and he writhed on the ice while the crowd whistled and the referee assessed a slashing minor on the goalie.
"They scored on the power play to make it 4-1 and that really upset our guys," Green said. "It was a bloody awful call."