After spending 18 hours earlier in the day helping his wife Charlene through the birth of their first child, Pat Riggin was ready to play hockey tonight.
"Now that the baby's here (a girl), I can relax and concentrate on hockey," he said after the Washington Capitals had defeated the St. Louis Blues, 6-5. "Our guys played really well, and maybe it's a sign of things to come."
With Riggin in goal, Washington came back from an early 2-0 St. Louis lead to tie the game early in the second period, then pulled away with five consecutive goals to take a 5-3 lead by the second intermission.
St. Louis tied the game at 5 on Brian Sutter's third goal of the game at 6:31 of the last period. But despite what Coach Bryan Murray called "a bit of a breakdown there," Dennis Maruk's score put the Capitals in the win column at 13:41.
"Every time you think things are rolling your way, they (the Blues) would do something, like get a goal at nine seconds, and you'd think, 'Oh no,' " Riggin said. He had been surprised by Brian Sutter's goals at 19:54 of the first and 14 seconds of the middle period, but the Capitals came back, playing their most disciplined hockey of the season.
"I juggled every line tonight, hoping to get a spark," Murray said. "Dennis had been struggling so I moved him to left wing to give him just one responsibility."
Maruk, playing on a line with Doug Jarvis and Ken Houston, had a pair of goals, a power play shot at 7:34 of the second period that tied the game, 2-2, and the game winner in the final period. That was his 250th career goal.
"I was very pleased with his play," Murray said. "With Jarvis, who's a very defensive guy, Dennis was able to get a shot."
Maruk's linemate Houston scored the first Capitals goal of the game early in the second, before Maruk, Craig Laughlin, Jarvis and Bob Gould added their points.
St. Louis, which had enjoyed its short-lived advantage, watched in frustration as the Capitals dug in and made five of their 12 second-period shots count.
Murray said his team's third period letup "is the kind of thing that's a learning process."
"Instead of really gripping, we were trying too hard maybe to make the good play," he said. "And we end up giving up two goals. We got a bit careless in our play. And St. Louis did play well in that (third) period. They tested our guys every step of the way."
Murray was also pleased with Riggin's performance. "Tonight was the first sign I've seen of the guy being a really top-quality goaltender," he said. "Up to now we just have not had the outstanding goaltending. Maybe the fact that he had a daughter, and now has a sense of responsiblity, had something to do with it."
Riggin brushes that aside, saying, "I like to keep my personal life and hockey life separate. As soon as I saw that the baby and my wife were healthy, it was like a sigh of relief and I knew I could think only hockey again."
The Capitals' victory here tonight brings their record to 3-6-1, with all three wins on the road. Murray believes his club could easily have five by now. "We've run into some hot goaltenders," he said. "(Minnesota's Gilles) Meloche and (Montreal's Richard) Sevigny."
Riggin, happy with his baby's birth and the Capitals' victory, thought his club should have won by a bigger margin. "Any time you score six goals, you should win by two or three at least," he said. "But even though there were a few late lapses, we did win."