They really wanted to beat us; we're about the only team they've played that they haven't beaten," Bobby Carpenter said, wearing a mile-wide grin.
The Washington Capitals had just defeated the Chicago Black Hawks tonight, 6-4, getting their first victory in Chicago since Oct. 26, 1975, and Carpenter's makeshift line (with Craig Laughlin and Alan Haworth) could take a sizable chunk of the credit.
The victory gave Washington a 10-6-7 road record, tying the club record for most away-from-home victories in a season. And the Capitals have 17 more chances to pad the mark.
Both the Capitals and the Norris Division-leading Black Hawks began the night with a swift-skating, determined kind of game. "We expected them to play hard at the beginning," Carpenter said. "That first goal might have been the beginning and the end, but we came right back and got a few breaks."
Chicago wasted scarcely three minutes before scoring, as Rick Paterson took a pass from Doug Wilson and snapped it behind Al Jensen at 3:17. But Washington skated back with Laughlin's power play goal at 5:54, a shot that left goaltender Tony Esposito whirling in surprise before he saw the puck in back of him.
"Our power play should be about the best in the league tonight," Coach Bryan Murray deadpanned. Washington was two for two in man-advantage tries, an area Murray has worked constantly to improve. "I just laid off it this week," he said. "It seems some of what we've been trying to get across has been sinking in."
Washington's power play wasn't the only weapon at work tonight. Jensen, who defeated another division leader, Philadelphia, Tuesday night, was back at work, handling 29 Black Hawk shots, with an assortment of aggressive saves and moves.
He said he wasn't tired, although he looked a touch dazed when it was over. "I thought the guys played pretty well," he said. "Any time you can get six goals against Chicago in their rink, that's pretty good. We're finally coming back to the way we played during the (14-game unbeaten) streak. Other teams don't get the second and third chances. We make them work."
Chicago could have used some of those chances in the middle period. After Haworth's unassisted first-period goal gave the Capitals a 2-1 edge going into the dressing room, the Black Hawks skated back and tied the game on Denis Savard's 20th goal of the year, but then sagged a bit.
"They didn't have quite the intensity they'd had (early) in the second period," Murray said.
Indeed, Chicago, which had appeared aggressive and determined, deteriorated into a tangle of rushes that resulted in Capital chances. First Carpenter scored at 9:04, set up by Haworth and Randy Holt. Bob Gould lit the goal light, but it was ruled no goal because the puck had not crossed the line, but Bengt Gustafsson lit the red light for real at at 14:29, for a 4-2 Capitals lead.
Then, 20 seconds later, Greg Theberge took aim from the point, and the puck went behind the sprawling Esposito. Originally, Theberge was credited with the goal, but Dennis Maruk, closest to the speeding puck, got a stick on it and tapped it into the net for Washington's second power play goal of the night.
"That was really a key goal for us," Carpenter said. "We'd gone ahead, 4-2, and then to get the 5-2 lead (that quickly)--well, it sent us into the dressing room that far ahead. If you lose then, it's not because they played good, it's because you played badly."
Washington hardly did that in the final period, with Carpenter getting his second goal on a feed from Haworth to make it 6-3. The Chicago sandwiching goals--Al Secord's on a four-on-three situation and Dave Feamster's off Jensen's outstretched elbow--came too little, much too late.