The Washington Capitals' ninth straight defeat was the toughest of all, as Steve Bozek's rebound of a shot by Marcel Dionne with 16 seconds remaining tonight carried the Los Angeles Kings to a 4-3 victory.
The stunning setback left goalie Dave Parro smashing his stick in frustration and disgust, defenseman Pat Ribble raging at linesman Roger Gilbertson and Coach Gary Green saying softly, "It almost makes you faint."
Ribble was chasing the puck when he became entangled with Gilbertson. Dionne got to it instead, skated down the right wing and fired a shot that Parro blocked. The puck caromed out to Bozek, who put it into the net.
"The linesman got in my way when I was going after the puck," said Ribble, who received a misconduct penalty for his angry words. "Dionne wasn't anywhere near it. I could have gotten the puck except for that. He (Gilbertson) shouldn't have been out there on top of the puck, that's for sure."
The Capitals appeared to have salvaged a point for the first time since Oct. 10 when a deflection off Gaetan Duchesne tied the score at 3-3 with 4:54 remaining. Washington had taken a 2-1 lead into the final period, but was outshot, 18-6, over the last 20 minutes.
Bengt Gustafsson's fourth goal of the season enabled the Capitals to gain a l-1 standoff in the first period, as Greg Terrion netted his seventh for Los Angeles.
The Capitals started fast, keeping the puck in the Kings' end but, as usual, unable to finish off their plays. Then, when the Kings' Mark Hardy went off for holding, the Washington power play clicked for only the seventh time in 42 chances.
Timo Blomquist shot from the right point and goalie Mario Lessard, in making the save, flopped on the ice. The puck lay loose and Gustafsson poked it over the goal line at 6:57.
The Capitals gave it back when a poor pass by defenseman Terry Murray in the Washington end was intercepted by Jim Fox. He passed to Terrion, who beat Parro with a high shot from the slot at 11:31.
Mike Gartner scored the only goal of the second period and some excellent saves by Parro, as the Kings had a 9-7 shooting advantage, enabled Washington to take a 2-1 lead to the dressing room.
Gartner had gone eight games without a goal until Los Angeles defenseman Larry Murphy unwisely tried to carry the puck in front of his own net and lost control. The puck skipped right to Gartner, who lifted it over Lessard at 4:28. It was No. 2 for Gartner, who had 48 a year ago, but has been troubled by a bruised right hand.
The Capitals had two extra-man opportunities to boost their margin, but failed. When the second penalty expired, to Murphy for tripping, the Kings applied considerable pressure, forcing Parro to stop six shots in a two-minute stretch.
Most of the Kings' scoring chances evolved with the line of Dionne, Bozek and Dave Taylor. That trio had seven shots in the period, 11 over the first 40 minutes.
An interference penalty against Ribble gave the Kings' power play the chance to even the score, and Dionne accomplished it at 5:55 of the third period with his 10th goal of the season.
Parro hung onto the puck after a weak shot. It would have been easy for him to give it to Rick Green to clear, but instead, realizing he might get a delay penalty, he suddenly shoved it behind the net. Taylor took possession, Bozek got it out front to Dionne and he cut across the slot from left to right before sliding it behind Parro.
The Kings grabbed a 3-2 lead with 8:27 remaining as Murphy skated down the middle, faked his way past Ryan Walter and lined a shot over Parro's left shoulder. At that stage of the period, Los Angeles had an 11-1 edge in shots.