The Washington Capitals' road losing streak caught up with the home winning streak at six games tonight. Bryan Trottier scored two goals and set up a third as the New York Islanders defeated the Capitals for the 10th straight time, 4-1.
Mike Gartner's goal with 10:26 remaining spoiled Islander goalie Roland Melanson's bid for a first-ever NHL shutout. It came from the right-wing circle and was the 10th of the season for Gartner, who scored 48 a year ago.
"I expected to help the team more than I have," Gartner said. "I've been working hard and getting chances, but I haven't been able to put the puck in the net. I hope I'll be a lot more help in the last 50 games than I have been so far."
Goalie Dave Parro stopped 31 New York shots and appeared to be back in the form he displayed in November, before he suffered that pinched nerve in his left shoulder. Parro made a number of sensational saves and had a chance on only one New York goal, Denis Potvin's 45-footer early in the first period.
"I felt pretty sharp, but my timing isn't quite there yet," Parro said. "The team was playing well, a really good effort. But those two goals in the third period killed us."
Trottier's score off a Mike Bossy feed -- the Islanders' first power-play goal in nine games -- had made it 2-0 late in the first period and it stayed that way until 8:13 of the third period, when Trottier reached far out with his stick to deflect a Ken Morrow drive and make it 3-0. After Gartner connected, Trottier sailed unchecked down the right side, but ignored a hat trick chance to feed Mike McEwen for a sure-thing score.
"A hat trick doesn't mean much," Trottier said. "The win was important to our morale. It's a good way to get everybody going again."
The Islanders had posted a 1-5-1 record on a recent road trip, returning here to post a 10-7 victory over Quebec on Tuesday.
"This was more of an Al Arbour type of game," Trottier said of the Islanders' defense-minded coach. "But it's the win that counts, whether it's 10-7 or 4-1. We were checking well tonight, we had good positioning, everybody was taking the body and we kept the puck in their zone. Most of their shots were from the boards or long distance. They weren't getting inside."
It appeared from the stands that neither team was very intense, but Washington Coach Bryan Murray said the opposite was the case, and cited the Islanders' outstanding defensive play for creating that impression.
"That's the best hockey team, they tell me, and if it is, our guys have shown some improvement," Murray said. "They're a big, physical hockey team, they leaned on us pretty good and took away some of the things our guys normally do.
"Overall, I was very, very happy with what I consider a good honest, intense effort by the guys."
There was little noise from the crowd announced as 14,733, with about 10,000 actually braving the snow to reach Nassau Coliseum. Many of those had departed before the only semblance of controversy came late in the third period.
Potvin shot the puck, then banged into Parro, who fell and lay on the ice. Several Capitals yapped at Potvin, but they later conceded it was inadvertent.
"The guy took a shot, he came in and I went to the side," Parro said. "We both got in the way of each other. It was no cheap shot. I was out of the play, so I stayed down and hoped they'd whistle it dead."
"It wasn't intentional," said defenseman Terry Murray, a standout all night on the unfamiliar left side and one of those who yelled at Potvin.