If this was the Colorado Rockies' last stand, goalie Chico Resch made it an occasion to remember. Resch blocked 47 shots today and the Rockies made it two straight successes for the first time this season by defeating the Washington Capitals, 5-3.
The Capitals could use a new script. For the third time in 72 hours, they were in a 3-3 tie in the third period. Each result has been 5-3, with Washington losing the last two.
Aaron Broten ended the tie with 6:31 remaining, on a deflection of Steve Tambellini's drive from the left-wing boards. Dave Cameron concluded the scoring on an empty net with 28 seconds left.
Dennis Maruk scored twice for Washington, increasing his goal total to 46 and tying the club record of 97 points that he set last year. He had eight shots on goal besides hitting two posts; he has 10 goals in the last five games.
Resch stopped 20 shots while shutting out the Capitals in the first period, 18 as they failed to score in the third. Washington's 50-shot total has been exceeded only once, in a 51-shot barrage that beat the Rockies, 7-1, at Capital Centre Nov. 18.
The Rockies have made a lot of bad trades in their six-year history since arriving here from Kansas City, but they can smile about the one that brought Resch and Tambellini from the Islanders for Mike McEwen and Jari Kaarela 11 months ago. Resch has a creditable 3.89 goals-against mark this season for the worst team in the National Hockey League.
Maruk created the 3-3 tie with four seconds left in the second period, as he lifted his own rebound over the fallen goalie. Then, in the first 10 minutes of the third period, the Capitals tried to win this game that was so vital to their playoff pursuit of Pittsburgh.
It became obvious this was not Valentine's day when Chris Valentine shot wide from close range, then watched Resch glove a testing shot. Resch stopped Maruk from directly in front before blocking drives by Valentine and Torrie Robertson while Washington enjoyed a four-on-one break.
Bobby Carpenter, who scored his 19th goal earlier on a breakaway, seemed to have No. 20 when Mike Gartner set him up in front, but Resch stopped that one, too.
Nevertheless, as it had developed for Edmonton in its 51-shot effort Friday, it seemed only a matter of time before the Capitals would produce the winner. Suddenly, Broten got his stick in the path of Tambellini's wild shot and the Capitals were back in the Brian Bellows chase.
While still trailing Pittsburgh by 11 points in the playoff picture, the Capitals are only six in front of the Rockies in the battle for the bottom and winger Bellows, although of course Colorado long ago yielded its draft pick to Boston for Dwight Foster, a winger who produced his eighth goal today on a first-period breakaway.
"We had so many good scoring chances," said Washington Coach Bryan Murray. "We had chance after chance after chance. When it was 3-3, we had a four-on-one and got two shots and couldn't score.
"Resch played outstanding. He made five or six unbelievable saves the first two periods. It's so frustrating to come in here and get the guys playing well, in such a big game for us, and not be able to get a break out there."
"The goaltender played phenomenal," Maruk said. "Some shots he didn't even see. He was beaten on a couple of them that hit the posts. When you outshoot a team 50 to 26, you should win the hockey game."
In the first two periods, the Maruk-Valentine-Ryan Walter line had 16 shots, the same number as the Rockies' team. Valentine finished with seven, Walter four, but both were exhausted by the finish.
It was warm here today, in the 60s, and the altitude tends to get to the visitors by the final period, but Walter offered no excuses, saying, "I don't know what is is, whether that or just this time of year, but the legs weren't there in the last period."
The crowd of 8,204 was enthusiastic, despite the doubts surrounding the Colorado franchise. There now appears to be a better than 50-50 chance that new ownership will be found by the Tuesday deadline set by owner Peter Gilbert. However, there is no guarantee the team will be back from an upcoming road trip for its next scheduled home date on Feb. 23.