The Dr. Jekylls in the red road sweaters once again became the Mr. Hydes in the home white last night. Yielding two goals 32 seconds apart in the third period, the Washington Capitals maintained their winless record at Capital Centre by losing to the St. Louis Blues, 4-3.
After Blake Dunlop and Brian Sutter gave the Blues a 4-2 lead, Ken Houston finalized the score with 7:49 remaining. Then, on two occasions in the last two minutes, the crowd of 14,337 undoubtedly thought Washington had tied the score, only to join the Capitals in familiar frustration.
With 1:25 left, St. Louis goalie Glen Hanlon blocked a shot by Doug Jarvis. Defenseman Ed Kea overskated the puck as he went to clear it and left Dennis Maruk with an open net beckoning. Maruk's shot hit the left post and caromed out.
Forty-three seconds remained when Mike Gartner and Milan Novy raised their sticks to celebrate apparent success in a goal-mouth scramble. No light came on, however, and referee Denis Morel emphatically signaled that no goal had been scored.
"I shot the puck and it went underneath Hanlon," Gartner said. "Then we all poked at it. I couldn't see the puck and I thought it had gone in. Hanlon was half in the net and half outside it. It was a natural reaction to lift my stick. But I didn't have the best view. The goal judge did."
The Capitals were less generous about a ruling at the other end in the first period, when St. Louis was awarded a goal.
Bernie Federko sent a rising shot from the left-wing circle that stripped goalie Pat Riggin of his glove. The puck, after popping out of the glove, struck the top of the cage and dropped near the goal line. Defenseman Brian Engblom appeared to sweep it out at the instant it touched the ice, but this time the light came on and Morel allowed the goal.
Riggin reacted violently, slamming his stick against the glass in front of the goal judge. The hazy TelScreen replay convinced the crowd that the call was erroneous and a slow-motion television replay later changed the opinions of those who originally supported the officials' decision.
"I saw Riggy's glove come off and I got right in there," Engblom said. "I was in there pretty fast and I got the puck clear. It barely landed and it was still spinning. I scooped it up, inside out. It happened so fast Riggy wasn't even down yet."
Despite that misfortune, Washington was fortunate to be trailing only 1-0, because Riggin made 12 saves in the period to Hanlon's five. But Maruk and Gartner scored early in the second period and it seemed the home-ice jinx was due to end.
Two injuries altered the situation. First Washington's Bengt Gustafsson caught Jack Brownschidle off balance and checked him to the ice. Brownschidle slid against the boards and, despite the helmet protecting his head, was knocked unconscious. He was carried off, suffering with a concussion.
Later the Blues' Rob Ramage checked Gustafsson against a goal post and, although the Swede skated off after treatment, he was unable to return to action because of a bruised thigh. After that incident, Ramage received a major penalty and Maruk, who led a group of angry Capitals in pursuit of Ramage, received a minor.
During the four-on-four segment, the Blues' Perry Turnbull slipped behind the Washington defense and converted Dunlop's perfect pass to tie the game.
The Blues broke the tie at 10:01 of the third period as Jorgen Pettersson slid a pass through the crease to Dunlop, who banged the puck off Riggin's leg. Before the Capitals could regroup, Federko took the puck away from Ted Bulley in the St. Louis end and fed Sutter at the finish of a textbook two-on-one break. It proved too much for Washington to overcome.
"I'm frustrated by the whole thing," Washington Coach Bryan Murray said. "In our building we just don't look like the same hockey team. I think it comes down to guys trying to do too much on their own."
Murray, despite warnings he has received from the NHL, had a lot to say about the officials, all negative. Apprised of them and asked for his viewpoint, St. Louis Coach Emile Francis said, "No comment. Bryan Murray must make more money than I do."