Milan Novy's 13th goal of the season with only 1:42 remaining shattered goalie John Garrett's lucky charm tonight and gave the Washington Capitals a 2-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.
The Capitals, who struck goalposts and crossbar four times in the second period, finally tied the game with 7:47 left when a sensational move by Bobby Gould around defenseman Jiri Bubla left Glen Currie open for a tap-in.
Washington sent 18 shots at Garrett in the third period, 17 in the last 12 minutes, as it increased its season point total to 71, a club record, and once again moved into a second-place tie with the New York Islanders.
Novy's goal was only his second since Dec. 19, the other a meaningless score with eight seconds left on Sunday against Winnipeg. Garrett blocked Novy's drive from the left-wing circle and both Bengt Gustafsson and Dennis Maruk whacked at it before Novy was able to lift a backhander over the fallen goalie.
The game was an emotional one throughout, with each team drawing 53 minutes in penalties. Washington rookie Scott Stevens engaged in two fights, against Ron Delorme and Jim Nill, that featured some potent punches.
The Capitals return to action Saturday night in Los Angeles against the Kings in the third game of this six-game trip.
The Canucks received a lengthy lecture from General Manager Harry Neale Thursday, then spent two hours in a team meeting this morning, discussing their inability to match the effort of a year ago, when they were a Stanley Cup finalist.
As a consequence, the Capitals expected the home club to come out flying. If such did not exactly prove to be the case, at least Vancouver played with considerable intensity and the scoreless first period featured plenty of physical activity.
Washington's Stevens and the Canucks' Delorme exchanged solid punches for almost a minute before they could be separated and sent off with major penalties.
When Vancouver's Tiger Williams tried to lure Rod Langway into combat, Randy Holt fulfilled one of his important roles by stepping in. When Williams and Holt clinched at great length and refused even the linesmen's orders to separate, they were banished for 15 minutes apiece.
Referee Ron Fournier, becoming impatient with such antics, chased Stevens and Vancouver captain Stan Smyl for delay of game before they could get started with anything else.
The second period was most frustrating for the Capitals, who struck iron four times without a score. Vancouver, meanwhile, converted one of three breakaways against Pat Riggin to take a 1-0 lead.
The goal came at 1:57 under strange circumstances. Vancouver goalie Garrett had made a save and Washington's Alan Haworth retrieved the puck, turned and sent a blind pass to the point. The puck went down the middle, between Brian Engblom and Timo Blomqvist, and right onto the stick of the Canucks' Doug Halward, who had just left the penalty box.
No teammate could have done a better job of freeing Halward, who deked Riggin and beat him with a backhander.
Moments before Halward connected, Bengt Gustafsson had rattled a post after a Dennis Maruk pass left Garrett out of position. Not long after the score, Ted Bulley hit another post from close range.
Before the period ended, Maruk was frustrated twice, rapping a post from the right-wing circle and clipping the crossbar from the slot