With a likely hero in goaltender Dave Parro and an unlikely one in defenseman Randy Holt, the Washington Capitals ended a 10-game winless streak and posted the 100th home-ice victory last night in the franchise's eight-year history.
The action on the ice was not scintillating, but it nevertheless served to entertain the majority of a surprisingly large turnout of 15,317 who watched the 5-2 victory over the Chicago Black Hawks.
Although outshot, 42-25, the Capitals were in control much of the way, building a 3-1 lead in the first period and hanging on behind Parro's superb goaltending until Dennis Maruk wrapped it up with his 35th goal early in the third period.
Ryan Walter (No. 100 in the NHL), Bobby Carpenter, Todd Bidner and Bobby Gould produced the other scores for Washington, which in its fifth try finally was able to post victory No. 100 on home ice. Half the 304 games have been losses, with 52 tied.
The key to the triumph was Holt, a man who has scored only three goals in his NHL career and did not have any last night, either. He engaged in some early roughhousing with two Hawks, Terry Ruskowski and Grant Mulvey, and it was noticeable thereafter that Chicago did not display the same physical intensity it did in December, when it won here, 6-4, and knocked the Capitals around. Of course, injuries have diluted the Hawks, who are winless in their last nine games.
Holt was plus three and started Maruk's scoring play by using the ample skating room he was given, moving down the left side and dropping a pass that Maruk converted into a 4-1 lead.
"I think Randy Holt is the most improved player on our hockey club," said Coach Bryan Murray. "From the day he came here (Nov. 24) until now, he has really progressed as a defenseman. He's been steady for us and aggressive back there and he's giving Darren Veitch confidence in the intimidating part of the game."
"When you're getting out on the ice a lot, you're so much more into the game," Holt said. "I've been taking the body a lot more. Other than last year in the playoffs, this is the best hockey I've played."
The most memorable move of the night was turned in by Bengt Gustafsson, on a two-on-one break during a first-period Washington power play. After skating down the left side, Gustafsson spun and made a behind-the-back pass to Carpenter, who sent the puck just under the crossbar for his first goal in nine games. It also broke a 1-1 tie and put Washington ahead to stay.
Bobby Gould, who came here from Calgary along with Holt for a future draft choice and defender Pat Ribble, set up Bidner for the goal that made it 3-1. Gould crossed the Chicago blueline, cut to his left and slipped around defenseman Dave Hutchison before passing to Bidner in the slot.
Gould netted his 12th goal, No. 9 with Washington, in the third period, hitting from the slot on a setup by Gaetan Duchesne. It was the third straight game in which Gould has a goal.
"Bobby Gould is a very, very honest hockey player," Murray said. "He isn't a star and he won't be, but he'll be here a long time. He gets the puck out of our zone and he goes to the offensive net very well."
Murray felt that the return of defenseman Rick Green after a two-week layoff was another important factor in the victory.
"Rick Green dominates back there; he's the glue and a leader and he's very important to this hockey club. With him out there tonight, there was much more opportunity for our forwards to attack."
"I felt like I was playing my first game in the league," Green said. "I was really uptight and I didn't sleep well last night or today. But once I got started, I really felt good.
As for the "glue," Green said, "I've been called a lot of things through the years, but never that. I guess he meant it as a compliment."
At any rate, neither Green nor the Capitals seems ready for the glue factory. But they must beat Pittsburgh here tonight to keep any playoff hopes flickering, since the Penguins are the current target and they are 16 points ahead.