Only rationalization could unearth a positive note for either the Washington Capitals or Vancouver Canucks after they had skated to a 6-6 tie last night at Capital Centre.
For Washington, it could have been worse. Bobby Carpenter's 30th goal, on a deflection of Darren Veitch's drive with 76 seconds left, salvaged the one point after goalie Dave Parro had been lifted for a sixth skater. That left the Capitals eight points behind Pittsburgh with nine games to play.
For Vancouver, it could have been better. The Canucks, now winless in eight games, led, 2-0, after the first three minutes. They fell behind after two periods and forged into a 6-5 lead on third-period goals by Tiger Williams and Thomas Gradin.
"We seemed to be floundering all night and the defense kept giving the puck away in our end," Coach Bryan Murray of the Capitals said. "When we get six goals in our own building, we should win the hockey game. When you pick up that many and don't win, it's very frustrating."
"We came back to get a point and we haven't done that for awhile, so I guess I can't be entirely unhappy," Coach Harry Neale of Vancouver said. "For us to get six goals in a game is a real bonanza, but when you get six and don't win, it's a kick in the nose."
Dennis Maruk, playing despite a strained right knee that has slowed him considerably, completed a rare feat for the Capitals. His 56th goal, midway in the first period, gave him at least one against every other team in the league.
"I never even thought about that," Maruk said. "It's nice to know and it is tough to do, because some teams are harder and don't give you many chances. But the big thing tonight is that we came back and got the point, even though we needed two and we're not very happy. Now we just have to hope Pittsburgh loses."
The Penguins obliged, losing to Edmonton.
When Williams and Ron Delorme connected in the first three minutes, there was considerable unrest among the 9,532 patrons, not to mention Murray, who could be seen berating his slumbering charges on the bench.
The Capitals got a break when Bengt Gustafsson, trying to pass to Carpenter on a two-on-one, caromed the puck off defenseman Doug Halward and into the net. It was Gustafsson's 24th goal and Parro earned his first assist of the season for starting the play.
Maruk hit from the left-wing circle to tie it and Mike Gartner converted a two-on-none pass from Gustafsson to give Washington its first advantage of the night.
Eight seconds later, Darcy Rota's backhander tied it at 3-3. Then Tony Currie's rebound of Lars Lindgren's shot sent the Canucks back in front early in the second period.
Veitch netted his own rebound and Ryan Walter, playing at reduced speed following a difficult bout with a virus, deflected Terry Murray's shot for goal No. 35, regaining the lead for Washington before the second intermission.
Williams skated down the middle and converted Ivan Boldirev's pass to tie it at 5-5. Then Thomas Gradin broke free behind the Washington defense and carried the puck into the net despite Gartner's slash to give Vancouver a 6-5 edge with 3:48 left.
Parro had barely reached the bench when Carpenter, well out in front, got a piece of Veitch's drive to create the final score. It was Carpenter's 11th goal in the last 10 games and gave the Capitals a club-record 287 goals, fulfilling Bryan Murray's promise that this would be an offensive-minded team.
The defense was still floundering with 30 seconds left when Vancouver's Jim Nill cut toward the goal, only to be hauled down without a penalty call. That had Neale up on the player's bench, screaming in frustration.
Delorme departed for the night shortly after his goal. He and Rick Green exchanged punches and Delorme had the misfortune to land the first one. He cut his right hand on one of Green's teeth and, while Green needed stitches on the upper lip before returning, Delorme was hospitalized for possible infection and tendon damage.