Alan Haworth and the Washington Capitals kept on streaking last night. Haworth scored twice, extending his goal-scoring streak to seven games, and the Capitals thrashed Detroit, 5-2, at Capital Centre to run their latest undefeated streak to five.
Bengt Gustafsson, Mike Gartner and Gaetan Duchesne also scored for Washington, while goaltender Pat Riggin turned back 23 shots in recording his third straight victory.
Haworth's second goal came five seconds before the end of the second period, giving the Capitals a 3-0 lead. It came off a rebound of Greg Theberge's slap shot, moments after Haworth had rattled a post. Late in the game, Haworth was deprived of his first National Hockey League hat trick on an acrobatic save by Detroit goaltender Gilles Gilbert.
"I came close with a couple, but what the heck--there's more games," Haworth said. "I think it was encouraging for us to get a goal that late in the period. Other teams have been scoring on us in the last minute. I'm glad that changed around."
After John Ogrodnick ruined Riggin's shutout, there was another big goal, this time by Mike Gartner for a 4-1 lead. Riggin foiled Danny Gare on a three-on-one break and, when play moved quickly to Detroit's end, Gartner turned Timo Blomqvist's pass into his 28th goal.
"It happens a lot, and it's happened against us a lot," Gartner said. "We'll go down and come close and the other team comes back and scores. It's nice to know they're going our way."
Clearly, things are going the Capitals' way. They have rolled up 62 points, only eight away from their all-time high of two seasons ago, and there are 27 games remaining.
Detroit is 16 games under .500 but it still marked a test for the Capitals, because they were beaten at home in recent weeks by two other terrible teams, Los Angeles and Toronto.
"I made the obvious comment at our meeting this morning, that we were primed pretty good for Montreal and played reasonably well, and now we were coming back here to play Detroit," said Coach Bryan Murray. "We knew there wouldn't be a big crowd (9,314 showed up) and there wasn't the same emotion involved, but two points against Detroit count as much as two against Montreal. These are the ones you have to be sure of."
There never was a lot of doubt about the outcome after Haworth took Craig Laughlin's pass and scored from the left-wing circle at 13:44 of the first period, one second before the scheduled expiration of a hooking penalty against Detroit's Greg Smith.
It became 2-0 at 59 seconds of the second period, with each team a man short. Gartner skated around the Detroit net and sent a perfect pass to Gustafsson, who shot before defenseman Reed Larson, who was fronting him and was unaware of the puck's location, could react.
The power play evolved from the first fight of Milan Novy's hockey career. The 31-year-old Czech banged into Detroit's Danny Gare with his stick high and Gare promptly flattened Novy. Scott Stevens and Ken Houston came to Novy's aid and Houston was ejected as the third man in the altercation, with Gare receiving a major and Novy a minor.
"He led with his chin real well," Murray said of Novy's indoctrination into the NHL fistic wars.
"No practice; tomorrow I practice," said Novy, simulating a fighting stance. Before the game had ended, he had asked Randy Holt for some lessons in self-defense.
Fights with the Red Wings have been commonplace in the Capitals' nine years. The Capitals prefer another aspect of the rivalry, the fact the Red Wings have not beaten them in the teams' last seven meetings. A year ago, when the Capitals began the season with a 1-14-1 record, the victory and tie came against the Red Wings.
At least one of the visitors had something to be happy about. Mark Lofthouse, the man the Capitals sent to Detroit for goaltender Al Jensen, scored his first goal this season on a breakaway with five seconds left, when the Capitals were preoccupied with trying to fit Haworth for his hat.