What Coach Bryan Murray likes best about the Washington Capitals' Gee Whiz Line is the way its three members follow instructions. Tonight, Murray sent the trio over the boards with two minutes left in a tie game and yelled, "Get the game-winner."
So Glen Currie took the puck away from Pittsburgh's Paul Baxter and fed it to Gaetan Duchesne, who knocked it between goalie Michel Dion's legs with 1 minute 29 seconds remaining. Duchesne added an empty-net score and the Capitals were 3-1 winners over the Penguins, with their unbeaten streak extended to 12 games.
"We think we got a tie, but Bryan Murray says the Glen Currie line is next and tells us to get a goal, so we go out and get one," said Duchesne, whose five game-winners rank him second in the NHL behind the six of Philadelphia's Brian Propp.
"The puck went in the zone and came off the boards," Currie said. "It was kind of bouncing and Baxter came to pick it up. I got it off him; I don't know whether I hit his stick or just stole it, and I heard Gaet yelling, so I got it to him."
"I was the late man and I came to the slot and I saw everybody had gone to Kid Currie with the puck," Duchesne said. "So I shout to him to give it to me. The pass misses me, but I reach out and stop it. It was spinning and I just take a swing and it goes between his legs. If I take more time, maybe I don't score."
Duchesne was happy about his empty-net score with 27 seconds left, because "I didn't want what happened to us in Minnesota to happen again." The North Stars had pulled their goalie and gained a 4-4 tie on Tim Young's goal, also with 27 seconds remaining.
"I told the guys in the room that if they wonder why I play the Currie line in the last few minutes of a game, that's why," Murray said. "They get the chances and Gaetan is a game-winner.
"This was a heck of an effort, really. We stayed right on top of them all night. It's great to be able to come in here and take it, when we had a chance to bury that hockey team."
Washington now leads the fifth-place Penguins by 13 points and has turned its sights on second-place Philadelphia, where Washington will play Sunday night. The Capitals can catch the Flyers with a victory.
Washington played a remarkable defensive game, limiting the Penguins to 26 shots, few of which were threatening. With Brian Engblom out because of a cracked rib, Timo Blomqvist returned after missing four games with bruised ribs and played an excellent game alongside rookie Scott Stevens.
"I was a bit more cautious tonight, because where Brian and I know each other and we've talked a lot about what we do, I wasn't so confident with somebody else," Stevens said. "The big thing for me was not overreacting to the things they were doing. I couldn't believe the shot Peter Lee gave me with his elbow after a whistle, but Bryan told me they were trying to get me out of there."
Stevens served nine minutes in penalties during the second period, drawing a roughing minor for his reaction to Lee's foul, but they caused no especial difficulty. It was a holding penalty against Pittsburgh's Pat Price, simultaneous with the outbreak of a fight between Stevens and the Penguins' Rod Buskas, that set up the game's first goal.
Bobby Carpenter scored it, 47 seconds before the second intermission, and it ended a string of 10 power-play failures for Washington.
Greg Theberge gloved the puck at the right point as Dennis Maruk shoved it out along the boards. Theberge dropped it quickly and shot. The puck struck Baxter and dropped at his skates just outside the crease. Carpenter swept it in before Dion could react to the change of direction.
A 1-0 victory was beckoning, but it was shattered with only 4:44 remaining when a seemingly routine shot by Pittsburgh's Doug Shedden skipped off goalie Al Jensen's pad and tied the game.
"Al overkicked and it got through," Murray said. "We'd done such a good job defensively and Al had been so sharp until that one, we just didn't want to settle for a tie. And then to pull it out, it's just great.
"With Engblom missing, to have Timo and Scott respond and play like that is very satisfying. Timo, coming back after that kind of layoff, played very solid. About the only thing I noticed was the way he kind of eased himself into the corners to avoid being run."
This was Jensen's first road victory of the season and only the second of his career, the other coming in Los Angeles Feb. 17. He is 13-3-5 at Capital Centre.
"The guys played super and it could have been 10-1 except for Dion," Jensen said. "I haven't played much on the road, but it is nice to win another one. The way the whole club is going, it's just great."