Some of the Washington Capitals became ill during and after Saturday night's 9-4 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs at Maple Leaf Gardens. Some of the team's fans doubtless became ill watching the telecast, too.
Dennis Maruk, Rick Green and Bobby Carpenter were among those who were sickened by the drink mixture provided in the dressing room. In Green's case, it did not affect his play, because he was ejected after 3 minutes 50 seconds for intervening in a fight between Maruk and Toronto's Terry Martin.
Green's absence underlined his importance to the Capitals. Washington's defense was dreadful throughout the game and Toronto enjoyed nine two-on-one breaks before the end of the second period, at which time it led, 8-4.
"We sure found out who glues our defense together," said Coach Bryan Murray. "Rick's absence left a lot of stress on the other guys and they couldn't handle it.
"We had a total breakdown in everything we've been doing. I'm so angry with that kind of response. We knew we had to play pretty well here with the tough schedule coming up, but instead everybody played as individuals. I hope we can get our act together going into Chicago Wednesday."
There are likely to be some changes by Wednesday, with Tim Tookey (minus eight and scoreless in the last four games) and Howard Walker (minus four Saturday after sitting out Friday) especially vulnerable. Some decision also should be made soon on the future of Bob Kelly, who has cleared waivers after sitting idle since Nov. 14.
Green, who had an excellent if unwanted opportunity to watch his teammates, could see that everyone was trying to do too much.
"It's tough for a kid to handle his first trip into Maple Leaf Gardens," Green said. "You have to be a little in awe of the place. I know it took me a few trips in before I felt comfortable. So many of our players come from around here and they all want to do well for the people watching. That's when team play breaks down."
The Capitals broke down early, permitting Rick Vaive to score a short-handed goal. The first of several fights followed and with the Capitals having an extra man on the ice, they were hit hardest by the penalties.
"I was at the other end of the rink, I picked up the puck and nobody was near me," Green said. "By the time I arrived, everybody was paired off. Dennis was taking a few too many punches and I couldn't watch that. I had to go in and help him out."
That was the first of many fights and by game's end the penalty totals read 133 minutes for Washington, 128 for Toronto. The Capitals had only nine men available at the finish, including goalie Al Jensen.
It did not matter by then. Although they rallied from a 3-0 deficit to gain a 3-3 tie early in the second period, the Capitals were blitzed for five Toronto goals in the next 12 minutes. Bill Derlago recorded his first NHL hat trick for the Leafs, who were winning at home for only the third time in 11 games.
One Capital with nothing to be ashamed of was rookie Chris Valentine, who celebrated his 20th birthday yesterday. Valentine scored two goals and set up the others, by Maruk and Ryan Walter. Valentine, a 10th-round draft choice, has scored 13 points in seven NHL games.
Murray marked his 39th birthday Saturday. "Don't ask me how old I feel right now," he said after the rout. "Old, that's all."
A passenger on the flight back from Toronto yesterday was former coach Gary Green, who served as analyst on the Canadian telecast. Green called Murray Saturday afternoon to wish him well and made a point of saying at the outset of the show that he considered Murray an outstanding coach.
"I was positive all through the telecast," Green said. "Even in the third period, when it was 9-4, I reminded the viewers that anything can happen in the NHL. But Dave Hodge broke in and said, 'Gary, this one is all over.'"