Washington goalie Rollie Boutin lay on the ice with 34 seconds remaining tonight, watching an impossibly angled shot by Mike Bullard bang off his pad and carom into the net. The score, after Pittsburgh had pulled its goalie for a sixth skater, enabled the Penguins to escape with a second straight 3-3 exhibition tie against the Capitals.
If Boutin's view was an unpleasant one, his performance tonight did nothing to dim his hopes of once again tending goal in Washington. The 23-year-old from Dapp, Alberta, stopped 18 Pittsburgh shots in a 28-minute relief effort and earned the praise of Coach Gary Green.
"Rollie played very well out there," Green said. "He had a good training camp, he worked hard and he seems to be back to his old self."
Another borderline candidate for Capitalism earned some points. Dennis Ververgaert, fighting for a fourth-line berth at right wing, scored two goals in the second period to give the Capitals a temporary 3-2 lead.
Boutin, a sensation in Washington two years ago, spent most of last season in Hershey, where he had problems both in the net and in the dressing room. He found afterward that a thyroid condition was responsible for much of his difficulty and the medication to alleviate it has been most helpful.
"Before, I had to watch my weight and I was scared to eat the right food," Boutin said. "I didn't have enough energy and I wasn't as quick mentally and physically."
Boutin also became a grouch, according to writers who covered the Bears. He said his head and heart were really in Washington.
"You're always upset when you don't get the chance you need," Boutin said. "I wanted to get there bad and I guess I let a lot of little things bother me. Live and learn."
Boutin was quick tonight and he was making points with the boss in an unexpected role, because 18-year-old Peter Sidorkiewicz was scheduled to relieve starter Al Jensen. Sidorkiewicz, however, suffered a leg injury in practice and lost his chance.
Although Dave Parro is ahead in the battle for the No. 2 spot behind Mike Palmateer, Green said it was by no means decided. He added that Boutin probably would be right back in uniform Thursday night when the Capitals face the Hartford Whalers in Binghamton, N.Y.
The Capitals were playing without at least half a dozen regulars, including most of the members of the power-play unit. So, when a Pittsburgh penalty provided an extra-man chance in the first period, Green sent out the Roaring Twenties Line with two defensemen at the points.
The potluck paid off, Jean Pronovost streaking down an otherwise empty right side to grab Howard Walker's pass, deking goalie Paul Harrison and sliding the puck behind the baffled netminder.
Jensen turned back all 13 shots he faced in the first period -- Pittsburgh had a 37-16 edge for the game -- but he permitted marginal scores to Pat Graham and Ron Stackhouse early in the second period.
Ververgaert regained the lead for Washington, deflecting a Pat Ribble slap shot and hitting an empty net with Harrison tangled up in the crease.
For the next 22 minutes, Boutin protected the margin with some remarkable stops. He knocked the puck loose from Mark Johnson on a breakaway, made a kick save on a Randy Carlyle drive from the slot and blocked a Greg Malone rebound from point-blank range.
The Washington defense could not withstand the pressure, though, and it could have been worse. With 10 seconds remaining, Bullard got free in front looking for an encore, but Boutin stood firm and Bullard hit the side of the net.
Pierre Bouchard, scheduled to start tonight, became dizzy in a morning workout and was scratched . . . Left wing Darren Galley and right wing Brent Pascal were farmed to Fort Wayne of the International League . . . Centers Francois Bessette and Daniel Rioux are returning to college . . . WTOP-1500 will broadcast Thursday's game at 7:30 p.m.