week ago, the Washington Capitals began their first long road trip of the season, and Coach Bryan Murray said he had high hopes.
"I feel we can win at least a couple, maybe more," he said then. Late Wednesday night, after his team had picked up only its second point of the trip in a 3-3 tie with Edmonton, Murray still wondered why the Capitals were not coming into Friday's home date with Toronto with more to show for their effort.
"If you look at the whole trip, you see that Vancouver and Calgary were really our better games, and we got nothing," he said. "Against Winnipeg and here (Edmonton), maybe we shouldn't have had anything. We had games that were winnable, no question. The effort was always there."
He shrugged, puzzled by his club's up-and-down performance.
"Two points for this trip is not enough. I still feel we could have had maybe five or six (of a possible eight)."
The Capitals began their tour of western Canada by playing catch-up with the Winnipeg Jets on Friday, rallying from a two-goal deficit to get one point.
Against Vancouver on Sunday, they led, 3-0, after the first period. But the Capitals lost, 5-3, watching the game slip away on giveaways and bad breaks that included lapses in officiating, badly bruised ribs for defenseman Timo Blomqvist and what turned out to be the winning goal scored into the Washington net by Glen Currie.
In Calgary on Tuesday, against the team Washington had beaten soundly a week before, the supposedly road-weary Flames surprised the Capitals, and probably themselves, with a 6-3 victory. Although the Capitals effectively controlled the middle period, Calgary broke up the momentum late in the game, scoring twice within two minutes.
And against Edmonton, the Capitals picked up their second tie with a touch of drama. A penalty shot was awarded to Edmonton when defenseman Randy Holt made a lunging save on a Dave Lumley shot with 1:47 left in the game. Tied, 3-3, with Wayne Gretzky assigned to go one on one with goalie Pat Riggin, the game was almost in the Oilers' pocket.
Except Gretzky, who already had a goal and assist, was thwarted. "I know I can stop him, but I know he can score, too," Riggin said. This time was a stop, the save of the game.
"To help the team get a point, that's my job," Riggin said.
General Manger David Poile plans to view a tape of the Edmonton game Friday. "There were a couple points I think I just blacked out of it, and want to see it again," he said. "Not good for the gray hair, or the heart, but what a finish."
After bumping around the league's north and west towns, the Capitals come home for five games at Capital Centre, beginning Friday against the Maple Leafs, who are winless in nine road games this season.
"I hope it helps (being back home)," said Mike Gartner.