If the game had gone according to the ultimate cliche, one team would have bested the other. Either the Capitals, who acquired four players from Montreal, or the Canadiens, who used two ex-Capitals, should have come out of Capital Centre with a solid two points.
But the cliches weren't working full force last night and Washington and Montreal tied, 3-3, before 12,849 who passed up the seventh game of the World Series.
New Capitals Rod Langway and Craig Laughlin had the satisfaction of scoring on their old team. But so did Montreal's Ryan Walter, the former captain of the Capitals.
The Capitals (2-3-1) broke a 2-2 tie early in the third period on Laughlin's goal at 8:08, with an assist from Dennis Maruk. But Montreal responded quickly on Steve Shutt's goal at 8:43.
"Since when is a point against the Canadiens so bad?" wondered David Poile, the general manager of the Capitals. "This was a good, solid hockey game."
Mike Gartner, who tied the game at 2-2 in the second period, agreed. "Till now we've played one really good game, and that was (the season opener) against the New York Rangers," Gartner said. "Tonight we played another good game. All we need to do is get some consistency."
Gartner spent much of the night head-to-head with Walter, his former linemate and friend. No dramatics were at work in matching the Gartner-Bobby Carpenter-Bengt Gustafsson line to the Walter-Guy Lafleur-Doug Wickenheiser trio, according to Capitals' Coach Bryan Murray.
"The scouting reports had said that (Montreal) line was the best one, so naturally you want your top line out there," he said.
The Canadiens scored first, midway through the opening period. Mario Tremblay took the puck from Pierre Mondou near center ice and shot low from the blueline past the right knee pad of goalie Dave Parro and into the net at 10:01.
The Capitals tied the score at 17:43 on a power-play goal by Langway.
Walter, in his first game against Washington in a Canadiens' uniform, put Montreal ahead, 2-1, in the second period. The goal came on a power play, with the puck appearing to take an extra bounce off Walter's stick after he had gotten it from Wickenheiser. The one-hopper skittered off Parro's glove at 1:58.
Later, Walter said the puck had been bouncing, like a loose basketball, when he grabbed it, and he simply redirected it toward the net.
That goal seemed to frustrate the Capitals, who skated around and past the Canadiens but could not tie the score.
Gartner, who earlier had nearly beaten goalie Richard Sevigny on a pass from Maruk, pulled a replay. His shot trickled wide, but Gaetan Duchesne and Milan Novy prevented the Canadiens from getting the puck.
Novy skated behind the net and passed the puck to Duchesne, who then flicked it low, like a short putt, past Sevigny at 19:05 for a 2-2 tie.
Laughlin's goal in the third was slightly bizarre. Sevigny came charging out of his cage to stop Gartner's shot, but fell over the blueline and flopped there, helplessly watching Maruk send the puck toward Laughlin, parked in front of an empty net.
Laughlin barely had to touch the puck to get his first goal of the season, and what Washington thought was the winning edge.
But Montreal rarely quits, and Shutt, after a feed from Mark Napier just over the blueline, took the puck and carried it past Ted Bulley, the only Washington player close enough to break up the play.
Notes: The Capitals haven't lost to Montreal in Capital Centre in their last eight games (3-0-5) . . . Pat Riggin will be in goal for tonight's game at Nassau Coliseum against the New York Islanders.