Although the Washington Capitals' unbeaten streak reached 11 games tonight, longest in the National Hockey League this season, there was no celebration.
Tim Young's goal from the outer edge of the right-wing circle with 27 seconds left, after Minnesota had pulled goalie Gilles Meloche for an extra skater, enabled the North Stars to escape with a 4-4 tie.
Washington, with Dennis Maruk scoring twice within 11 seconds, built a 3-0 lead early in the game and outshot Minnesota, 15-8, in the final period without being able to put the puck past Meloche.
The red light never came on to acknowledge Maruk's first goal. He shot from the right-wing circle, the puck striking the center strut and bouncing out. Play continued and the North Stars had carried the puck to the Capitals' end before referee Dave Newell, after a quick word from linesman Randy Mitton, blew his whistle.
Newell spoke to the goal judge, endured a brief argument from the North Stars and allowed the goal, officially credited at 8:41.
Eleven seconds later, Maruk scored again, his 17th this season. It came in somewhat stranger circumstances than the first, but there was no doubt this time.
Scott Stevens dumped the puck from outside the red line and it appeared to be a routine icing call. However, Meloche went behind the net, as if to play the puck, and was caught out of position when it bounced crazily off the end boards and slid out front.
Minnesota defenseman Craig Hartsburg, seeing Meloche trying to scramble back, overskated the puck himself. That left Maruk, the next man chasing in, to bat the puck off Meloche and into the mostly open net.
It became 3-0 at 12:30 as Bobby Gould made a chest-high deflection, of Brian Engblom's hard shot from the right point, for his ninth goal. At that point, the Capitals had an 11-3 margin in shots, with all three of the North Stars' shots at Pat Riggin coming from just inside the blueline.
Minnesota finally applied some offensive pressure while Engblom served a hooking penalty, but Riggin made a big save on Brian Bellows' shot from the right-wing circle to keep the North Stars scoreless.
The North Stars' power play, second-best in the NHL, cut the deficit to one in the second period before Ken Houston's 13th goal sent Washington to the dressing room with a 4-2 lead.
The Capitals suddenly found themselves two players short at 6:32, when Glen Currie was penalized for high sticking Dino Ciccarelli at the same time Washington was detected with an extra man on the ice.
Rod Langway was able to clear the zone, then the two-man disadvantage was reduced to one at 6:57 when Langway was hooked by Bellows. Minnesota pressed hard one and some superb passing left Bobby Smith open in front, but Engblom dove to knock the puck off his stick.
Neal Broten produced Minnesota's first goal at 12:12, with Washington's Bobby Carpenter in the box for slashing Jordy Douglas. Tom McCarthy, in the high slot, faked Gaetan Duchesne out of his path and loosed a shot that struck Willi Plett in front and deflected onto Broten's stick at the left of Riggin. He merely had to shove the puck into the half-open net.
Stevens was off, for a hook on a swan-diving Broten, when Steve Payne brought the North Stars to 3-2. Bellows, at Riggin's right, passed to Payne, who was standing in the crease and deflected it in at 15:48. Although Newell should have disallowed the goal, that probably was expecting too much of him after that earlier no-light goal by Washington.
Houston scored at 17:15, backhanding a shot off Meloche's pad and between his legs. Langway's pass from well outside was deflected off Hartsburg to Houston, who was unguarded in the slot. The goal came on one of only four shots by the Capitals, with Minnesota sending 10 at Riggin.
Minnesota was back within one 19 seconds after the start of the third period. Ciccarelli passed from the right-wing corner to McCarthy, who knocked the puck under the crossbar from close range for his 14th goal. It was the 32nd in 14 games for the McCarthy-Ciccarelli-Broten line.
The Capitals came close during a penalty to Minnesota's Dan Mandich for tripping Doug Jarvis. The puck once got behind Meloche, but Maruk was unable to poke it the last few inches. Then, moments after the penalty expired, Meloche stopped Houston twice, the second time on a rebound while the goalie lay on the ice.