Sunday's 4-4 tie against the Quebec Nordiques propelled the Washington Capitals into the all-star break with some remarkable records.
The Capitals are unbeaten in their last eight games overall, have lost only one of their last 15 road games and share second place in the Patrick Division with the Stanley Cup champion New York Islanders. With 24 games remaining, the Capitals have 67 points, only three short of the club record established two years ago.
Washington's next game will be a big one, a televised showdown against the Islanders Thursday at Nassau Coliseum. Unlike previous years, when games with targeted teams acquired "must" labels, this time there is no feeling of urgency. The Capitals' No. 1 goal, to reach the playoffs, has been accomplished whether Washington finishes second or third.
"I think we have a pretty good chance to beat out the Islanders, although they're certainly going to win a lot of games," said Coach Bryan Murray. "We have a six-game road trip starting next week and I think the key will be whether we can come off it .500 or better.
"I'm not going to exert any great pressure on the players to beat the Islanders out. It looks like we'll be meeting them in the playoffs, so all that's at stake is home ice. That may be important to some of the young guys--to open the playoffs at home--but we've played awfully well on the road. Of course, from the points of recognition and prestige, it would be nice to finish ahead of the Stanley Cup champions."
The extent to which the Gee Whiz Line is being recognized as a potent defensive unit was displayed here, as Quebec Coach Michel Bergeron tried hard to keep the high-scoring Stastnys away from Glen Currie, Bobby Gould and Gaetan Duchesne.
Murray frequently sent the Gee Whiz kids out a trifle late and a couple of times Bergeron became angered when he was slow to react and referee Don Koharski refused him the traditional last-change privilege.
"When I'd put Currie out, he'd take the Stastnys off and break up the flow of the game," Murray said. "Since they create most of the offense, that's all I wanted."
Peter and Marian Stastny rank fifth and sixth in NHL scoring and Washington fans will recall that Peter and Anton combined for seven goals and nine assists in an 11-7 victory at Capital Centre two years ago. In three meetings this season, the three Stastnys totaled two goals and three assists, with Peter limited to one assist.
Gould scored two goals himself Sunday and took Peter Stastny off for seven minutes as a result of a brief fight late in the second period.
Gould's goals gave him 19 for the season. Incredibly, he has been on the ice for only 19 equal strength goals by the opposition. Mike Gartner netted his 29th goal and Bobby Carpenter scored his 20th.
"I plan to get a lot more, but what I really want to do is to beat my points and goal totals from last year," Carpenter said. "I want to improve on my play and get better every year in every part of the game. I don't ever want to fall back." Carpenter, with a recent surge, has 20 goals and 28 assists. His final figures a year ago were 32 and 35.
If the Capitals neutralized the Stastnys this season, they had less success against Michel Goulet. The all-star left wing scored twice Sunday, including a successful penalty shot against Pat Riggin, and in the three meetings recorded four goals and three assists.