Dennis Maruk wore a blond wig as he sauntered around the Washington Capitals' dressing room before last night's game with the Winnipeg Jets. On the ice, Maruk still was doing tricks, scoring four goals for his 10th National Hockey League hat trick to lead the Capitals past the Jets, 7-3.
"I like to clown around. It keeps me loose," Maruk said afterward. "The guys wanted me to wear the wig on the ice, but I wasn't doing that. When the warmup starts, I want to get down to business."
Maruk got down to business quickly, scoring his first goal at 1:57 on a give-and-go with rookie Chris Valentine. Maruk faked a shot and set up Valentine for No. 2 at 6:23, but a Winnipeg pass caromed into the net off Washington's Rick Green 19 seconds later to give the visitors some momentum and it was 2-1 and very much in doubt at period's end.
Four minutes into the second period, the contest was all but over. The Capitals scored two goals 24 seconds apart in the first minute and four within 2 minutes 50 seconds. Maruk completed his team's scoring at 12:44 of that period and, from there on, the Capitals seemed to be thinking about tonight's contest in Toronto (WDCA-TV 20 at 8).
"We went into the traditional sleep with a big lead," said Coach Bryan Murray.
Murray celebrates his 39th birthday today and after 24 days as the Capitals' coach he has compiled a 7-2-2 record, a rather amazing statistic considering he took over a 1-13 team. Washington is only three points behind the fourth-place New York Rangers in the Patrick Division.
"We came into this week knowing we had to have three victories," Murray said. "We have a tough schedule coming up, so we have to get all the points we can now. With guys like Maruk . . . shooting the puck so well, we're doing a great job offensively."
The Capitals, losers only once in their last 10 games, are doing pretty well defensively, too, thanks to the play of goalie Al Jensen, filling in for ailing Dave Parro and Mike Palmateer. Jensen stopped 37 shots last night and that figure included some acrobatic saves to keep Washington giveaways from hurting. Jensen will play again tonight and, since he is from Hamilton, Ontario, the game in Toronto figures to be special.
"Every game means a lot to me," Jensen said. "I'm trying to do the best I can. I have no idea what's going on as far as the long haul, but I felt comfortable all night and the guys helped me out an awful lot."
Maruk finished with six points, tying a team record he shares with several others. It was his fourth four-goal game in the NHL, matching Mike Bossy, Wayne Gretzky and Richard Martin for the lead among active players. Only 10 other active players have reached double figures in hat tricks.
With 21 goals and 17 assists in 25 games, it is hard to imagine that a month ago Maruk was down in the dumps, so disgusted with his play that he did not want to talk about it.
"I had personal problems and contract problems," Maruk said. "I want to stay here and when I finally did sign a new contract, everything started to jell. I was around the net a lot tonight and Ryan (Walter) and Chris (Valentine) played well to set me up. A lot of it was just being in the right place at the right time."
The refreshment stands still were cluttered with segments of the crowd of 10,605 when Maruk cut across the blueline, braked and passed to Walter, who skated unopposed down the slot and beat goalie Ed Staniowski at 28 seconds of the second period for a 3-1 lead.
Folks who rushed out to see the reason for the noise were rewarded by another goal, as Mike Gartner sent a 50-footer past Staniowski at the 52-second mark. Then a great play by Valentine started Maruk on a run of three straight goals.
At 3:18, with each team two men short, Maruk moved unchallenged down the left wing and fired a shot over Staniowski's right shoulder. At 12:44, Maruck jammed the puck past Staniowski after Greg Theberge fired a wide shot.
That marked a truly incredible performance, four goals on four shots. A fifth went wide in the third period as a defenseman grabbed Maruk's arm and angry Jets held and hacked him successfully the rest of the way to prevent another score.
Stephfan Allen scored 30 points last night as the Eastern Mennonite Royals easily defeated Catholic, 84-75, in the first round of the Jaycees Tipoff Round Robin in Bridgewater, Va.
Luke D'Alessio led the Cardinals (2-4) with 18 points.