For 10,122 fans in Boston Garden tonight, it was the best of all possible worlds. The Bruins thrashed the Washington Capitals, 6-3, and local favorite Bobby Carpenter scored a goal for the visitors.
The cheers for Carpenter's second score of the season, at 8:36 of the final period, did not quite match the reaction to goals in the previous minute by Bruins Rick Middleton and Wayne Cashman, but they came close.
Carpenter's goal reduced Washington's deficit to 5-3 and there were some good opportunities to close the gap further before Mike Gillis rebounded Brad McCrimmon's long shot with four minutes left.
"At the time I got the goal, I was hoping it would help us get back in the game, but it didn't happen," Carpenter said afterward, surrounded by a crush of Boston media. "We have to forget this and think about our next game with Philadelphia Wednesday."
For Washington, it was a forgettable game. The Capitals enjoyed early 1-0 and 2-1 advantages, on goals by Dennis Maruk and Orest Kindrachuk, but the Bruins applied considerable two-man-in forechecking pressure and forced repeated costly errors that smoothed the path to their first victory. Cashman, a force both physically and on the scoreboard, and Middleton each had a pair of goals.
"We were outmuscled to the puck," said Coach Gary Green. "Our defense didn't move the puck quickly and didn't apply any muscle, and they're capable of it. Our forwards didn't contribute much, either. It was a team loss, all the way."
"It's a small rink and they get on you quick," said defenseman Rick Green. "The first guy takes you and the second guy is right there. You have to have room to get back there or they bog you down in your end zone. We had momentum for a while, but we seemed to lose it, they picked it up and took it to us."
A major problem for the Capitals was the mugging tactics Boston focused on Carpenter, Dennis Maruk and Mike Gartner. They were banged around any time they handled the puck and the frustrated Gartner drew three minor penalties, a rarity for him.
"It was just a bad effort, a terrible game," Gartner said. "It was frustrating, but I can't help the team if I'm in the penalty box half the time."
Referee Wally Harris granted Washington four power-play opportunities, three because of fouls on Gartner. Washington capitalized on one, with Kindrachuk scoring, but Middleton maneuvered past Green for a short-handed score that evened things at 2-2.
Boston goalie Rogie Vachon withstood some Washington pressure in the second period before Peter McNab, the son of the Capitals' general manager, sent the Bruins ahead to stay at 3-2 with 3:57 left.
McNab was pulled down in the right-wing circle by Ryan Walter, and Harris signaled a delayed penalty. Play continued and McNab rose to deflect Brad Park's drive from the right point for his third goal in three games.
Overlapping penalties to Cashman and Don Marcotte early in the third period gave Washington a power play for 3 minutes 39 seconds, with a two-man advantage for 21 seconds. It was wasted, however, and an icing call on Carpenter during the two-man difference proved costly. A Middleton block of a Greg Theberge shot set up a clean breakaway for Steve Kasper, but Palmateer stopped him.
With the teams at equal strength, Middleton stole the puck from Paul MacKinnon and scored over Palmateer's left shoulder on a breakaway. Thirty-three seconds later Cashman rebounded Barry Pederson's shot and it was 5-2.
Carpenter hit from the left-wing circle, on a drive over Vachon's glove, after Walter fed him from behind the goal line. Although it provided a nice touch to Carpenter's return to the building where he played in eight high school playoff games, it was too little and too late.