In the beginning, it looked like a runaway. "We just played a horrendous first period," said Mike Gartner of the Washington Capitals. "We came out terribly flat, and after it was over, we came in here (the dressing room) and said we were fortunate to be down only 2-1."
The Capitals improved their fortunes still more in the next two periods as they came back from a 3-1 deficit to tie the Winnipeg Jets, 3-3, the last goal being provided by Gartner in the third period. Washington's unbeaten streak now stands at six games.
Winnipeg, which "came on flying," according to Dennis Maruk, gave the Capitals a quick welcome with Thomas Steen's goal at 13 seconds, followed by Brian Mullen's at 2:16.
"We made mistakes and they were right there on us," Maruk said. He helped set up Ken Houston's shot at 8:41 of that period, but Washington did not really begin to fight back until Alan Haworth's goal midway through the second period, making it 3-2.
"The game was there for either team to take in the third period," Maruk said, but neither one was able to take it away.
Coach Bryan Murray, glad to get out with at least a point, said his team had prepared well for the game. "Maybe we thought by doing that, we could just go by without working," he said. "We were just too casual. I thought we outskated them in the second and third, but in the first, well, it could've been all over."
When Glen Currie deflected a puck into his own face late in that period, it looked as if his night could be over. "I didn't even know what happened to him," Murray said. "He caught a stick above the eye, and his vision is blurry. He'll be all right."
Actually, the puck came off Currie's stick and went upward against his left eye. He sat on the bench most of the second period, but played briefly, getting one shot on goal.
Al Jensen, in goal for Washington, looked a bit stiff-legged on the two early goals by Winnipeg, but steadied later, making stop after stop to keep the game within range. "Al made at least three outstanding saves (in the third period)," Murray said. "He really made a difference."
In the first period, Jensen had more work than most of his teammates, whose plays were constantly broken up. Winnipeg sent 14 shots at Jensen, while Washington left Doug Soetart yawning at the other end of the ice. Until Houston's score, the Capitals were not even credited with one shot on goal.
"They were right on top of us," Maruk said. "But in the third period, we really woke up and started to hustle. The young guys, Craig Laughlin and Alan Haworth, started hitting and kept us fighting."
Besides hitting and hustling, Haworth got a goal for his efforts. Laughlin swung the puck around the Winnipeg net, out to Doug Jarvis, who barely waited before aiming a pass toward Haworth, waiting in front of Soetart. He slapped at the puck, sending it behind the goalie at 11:58 and bringing Washington within 3-2.
Winnipeg never let up, pressing the Capitals into giveaways and breaking up the visitors' play continually. "We just couldn't finish, even though we got the chances," Murray said. "Gus (Bengt Gustafsson) had at least three chances, (Bobby) Carpenter, Gartner, who at least got one in. We got in gear late."
In addition to getting the tying goal, Gartner early in the third period smacked a puck hard enough to split it. "I didn't think it was that hard a shot," he said. The puck went off the boards before it cracked. The crowd cheered, but Gartner was unimpressed. "Must've been a cheap puck," he said.