Gary Green had an easy job tonight in his debut as a television analyst for Hockey Night in Canada. The Washington team he was watching looked just like the club he had coached to one victory in 13 games before he was fired earlier this season.
It was a bitter birthday present for Coach Bryan Murray, who turned 39 this morning and felt like 49 by game's end. About the only thing the Capitals gained from a 9-4 defeat by the Toronto Maple Leafs was an increased appreciation for defenseman Rick Green's ability.
Green was ejected in the fourth minute of the game and Washington's defensive play was abominable the rest of the night, as the Leafs became the first team to score more than six goals against the Capitals this season.
Bill Derlago recorded his first NHL hat trick to lead the Leafs, who also had two goals from Rick Vaive. Both players came to Toronto in the 1980 trade with Vancouver for Tiger Williams and Jerry Butler.
Rookie Chris Valentine had two goals and two assists for Washington, giving him 13 points in seven NHL games. He came close to a hat trick a couple of times in the third period and, after being hooked down on a breakaway by Barry Melrose, pounded his fists on the ice in frustration. It might have served as a theme for the whole evening.
Vaive opened the scoring on a shorthanded goal, after Greg Theberge mishandled the puck near his own net. Then, with Washington still on a power play, Ryan Walter tangled with Toronto's John Gibson. As the players paired off, other individual bouts commenced and the Leafs' Terry Martin was giving Dennis Maruk a pounding when Green, the odd man, intervened and was ejected.
"It's an awful way to miss a game and I wore out a lot of shoe leather pacing up and down watching it," Green said. "But you can't stand there and watch one of your teammates get beaten up like that."
By game's end, the Capitals had been assessed 133 penalty minutes and had only nine men available, including goalie Al Jensen. Toronto drew 128 minutes.
After Green departed, Derlago scored twice to give the Leafs a 3-0 lead. Then rookie Ernie Godden was assessed a cross-checking penalty, sassed referee Bob Myers and was given an additional minor for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The Capitals took advantage of each penalty, with Valentine setting up Walter's 13th goal and Walter returning the favor for Valentine's fifth.
Early in the second period, Maruk blocked a shot by Gibson and passed ahead to Valentine, who blasted a long shot through goalie Vince Tremblay to tie the game.
"I thought we were coming back, but instead everybody tried to do everything individually," Murray said. "We had a total breakdown in everything we've been doing. I'm so angry with that kind of response. I told the guys this morning that I knew a lot of them were from up here and I wanted them to remember to play as a team, not to try to do too much. Obviously, they weren't listening."
By the end of the second period, Toronto had enjoyed nine two-on-one breaks. Jensen made some amazing saves, but no netminder could have done much with the sloppy defensive play Jensen endured.
Darryl Sittler completed a two-on-one with Rene Robert to make it 4-3 as Terry Murray was caught up ice. Then Robert got behind Theberge and hit the far corner from the right-wing circle. Godden's first NHL goal, off a Martin feed, made it 6-3.
Maruk interrupted the Leafs' barrage with his 22nd goal, Valentine earning his fourth point on the setup pass. But Vaive deflected Fred Boimistruck's drive to make it 7-4 and Dan Maloney netted a second rebound, following two attempts by Sittler.
Derlago completed his hat trick for the only score of the third period, which dragged on through more fights and ended with most of the 16,360 fans already on their way home.