For 53 minutes Saturday night, the Washington Capitals' Montreal Four enjoyed the best of all possible returns to the Forum. Then they learned the facts of life as taught to Canadiens' opponents through the years.
Unassisted goals by Guy Carbonneau and Gil Delorme, the latter with 1:04 remaining, lifted Montreal into a 3-3 tie and focused on the home club the cheers that had been liberally bestowed all night on Rod Langway, Brian Engblom, Doug Jarvis and Craig Laughlin.
"The fans can turn when the Canadiens get behind and don't seem to be generating anything," Jarvis said, noting earlier boos directed toward the Bleu Blanc Rouge. "But we knew in the third period they'd be coming at us in waves and open it up.
"It was kind of an interesting game. The big thing for the Washington Capitals was to play good hockey and show that we're a good team and that we belong. We wanted to gain a little respect and I think we did."
"I was excited; I'd been looking forward to this game for a couple of weeks," said Langway, selected as the No. 2 star behind Washington goalie Al Jensen. "I always enjoyed it here--always. But now I'm enjoying Washington just as much.
"We got a point, but it should have been better. You can't expect to give up three goals in the third period and win. But they had help--that ref always has been a homer."
Langway was referring to referee Bob Myers, also severely criticized by Coach Bryan Murray. They were complaining because Myers called Jarvis for holding Guy Lafleur early in the third period, leading to Montreal's first goal, and because he ignored Mario Tremblay's dash through the crease to flatten Jensen a moment before Delorme scored.
"I felt a little different; it wasn't the way it used to be," said Engblom, who made several sensational blocks of Montreal shots. "It didn't feel like the same rink I was in before. Now it's not my rink and it seems like a long time since I played here--a couple of years.
"After the game starts, it's like any other game."
Laughlin earned two assists, but admitted it took him a while to get oriented: "I was pretty nervous and this was the first time I've ever had a sore stomach before a game. It's not that I was here long, but it's that Canadiens mystique."
In Montreal's dressing room, the two other players in the September trade took different views of the sight of familiar Washington uniforms.
"I'm glad the Capitals are doing so well," Ryan Walter said. "They've got confidence now and they don't give up anything. Washington deserves a winner after all those years of struggling."
"I wanted to beat Washington and beat them bad," said Rick Green, who drew the Canadiens' only two penalties. "We had all read enough about those guys coming back here."
The Capitals, who earned their first point in 22 visits to the Forum, have lost only one of their last 14 road games. They return to Capital Centre for three games this week, with Detroit coming in Tuesday, followed by Minnesota on Thursday and New Jersey Saturday.