The Philadelphia Flyers, as they manage to do so often, spoiled the fun for the Washington Capitals and a majority of the 10,307 fans at Capital Centre last night. Brian Propp's second goal of the game with 25 seconds remaining lifted the Flyers to a 5-4 victory after Washington had erased a two-goal deficit in the third period.
Roland Stoltz's drive from the right-wing circle evened the score at 4-4 with 2:27 left, prompting a spirited celebration by fans who had lost hope 10 minutes earlier. It also inspired the Flyers.
Philadelphia forwards repeatedly swept across the Washington blueline and goalie Dave Parro made excellent stops on Lindsay Carson and Ken Linseman. Then Tim Kerr's turn came and his shot was blocked by defenseman Pat Ribble. Kerr tried again and hit the side of the net, then he fed Propp, who had a better angle and shot it past Parro.
The Capitals pulled Parro for a sixth skater and fought back, the game ending with the puck between the skates of Flyer goalie Pete Peeters and all the players on the ice leaning over to check its location.
The Capitals never have beaten the Flyers in 15 meetings in the Centre and they all denied, from Coach Gary Green on down, that they were counting one point in the standings after Stoltz's goal. It just looked that way.
"We were going for that win," Green said. "We made sure the third man stayed high, but the intent was to keep applying pressure to them."
"Greener said to pick up the slack and go for it, because this is our building," said captain Ryan Walter, a two-goal scorer. "We were charged more than anything. We just had a breakdown."
"We just didn't have that killer instinct," Mike Gartner said. "We started scrambling in our own end zone and it cost us the game."
Walter, on a rebound of Greg Theberge's drive, sent the Capitals in front at 2:49 of the first period. Reg Leach, another two-goal man, matched that on the Flyers' first power play.
Bobby Carpenter's worst move as a professional enabled Philadelphia to score a short-handed goal and take the lead. Carpenter tried to come out from behind his net and lost control, with Bill Barber snapping up the puck and flipping it over Parro.
Jean Pronovost scored off a faceoff at 16:29 of the second period for his 391st NHL goal, tying him with Dean Prentice for 18th place on the all-time list. The tie he created lasted only 22 seconds, as Propp netted Kerr's rebound.
The Flyers fired 13 shots at Parro in the last eight minutes of the second period and eight more in the first eight minutes of the third. When Leach converted Bobby Clarke's superb pass out of the right-wing corner with 12:27 remaining, the result seemed assured.
Gartner sailed past defenseman Behn Wilson, however, following a favorite path of swift forwards. He cut around the net and set up Walter in front, reducing the deficit to 4-3 with 10:09 left. It was Walter's fifth goal in four games.
The Capitals suddenly assumed control. Carpenter twice circled Wilson only to be foiled by Peeters, who also gloved Orest Kindrachuk's testing shot. Then Stoltz was blasted against the boards behind the Flyer net by Bob Dailey, losing the puck to Frank Bathe. Walter hammered Bathe and the puck squirted out to Stoltz, who had recovered and moved into the right-wing circle, from where he beat Peeters with his second NHL goal.
Walter's assist was his 200th NHL point and, for another figure, the night's attendance, although disappointing, boosted the Capitals' total over seven-plus seasons to 3,000,812. Gartner mentioned more important numbers: 10 and 60.
"I think we have to play the way we did in the third period for 60 minutes instead of 10," Gartner said.
Afterward, both teams climbed onto their respective buses and headed for Philadelphia, where an encore is scheduled tonight (WDCA-TV 20 at 7:30 p.m.). Yvon Labre will make his debut as color man on the telecast and he can fill a lot of dead air just reminiscing about tough-luck losses to the Flyers.