Patrick Michael Riggin, who kept the Boston Bruins scoreless for 58 minues 10 seconds, said he had looked forward to this game "for months.
"I love playing on St. Paddy's Day. In Boston, that's an exciting day," he said, after the Washington Capitals had beaten the Bruins, 2-1, tonight for the their sixth victory in their last seven games.
Someone asked Riggin if he was Irish. "Are you kidding? I'm surprised they got a goal at all. I had four-leaf clovers working for me out there," he said.
Some of the Bruins had opted for Irish luck, wearing little shamrocks on their jerseys, but luck must have stayed behind in the locker room during the early part of the game. Washington scored midway through the first period on a goal by Bengt Gustafsson, who made it 2-0 at the 11:00 mark of the third period.
The Bruins, pressing hard, might have recalled that the last time they were shut out in the Garden was October 1977, when former Canadien Ken Dryden did so. Mike Krushelnyski spoiled Riggin's shutout with 1:50 to go, skating in on the goalie with a feed from linemate Barry Pederson.
But in spite or controlling play in the Washington end late in the game, and a timeout for a strategy meeting with 42 seconds left, the Bruins were defeated by Washington for the second time in less than a week. Last Sunday at Capital Centre, Washington had beaten them, 6-4.
The victory kept the Capitals tied with the New York Islanders for second place in the Patrick Division.Both teams have 86 points, and the Capitals have a game in hand over the Islanders, who beat New Jersey tonight.
"We thought they would take it to us in the first 10 minutes of the game," said Coach Bryan Murray. "And once we withstood the early storm, we were okay. We got some great goaltending, we looked after our own end and didn't give them more than three or four good shots."
Boston did outshoot the Capitals in every period, for a total of 40 to 23, and appeared frustrated at every turn in the middle and final periods.
"I won't say that we were tired, I can't put my finger on that as an excuse," said Mike Milbury. "But we just didn't seem to play (well) in the offensive zone. We were denied a lot of second opportunities, and, of course, Riggin was just outstanding out there."
Riggin said of the Bruins, "They're not the kind of team who will blow another team out of the building. You might see a 4-3 or so game against them. But if you put your heart into it, you just expect a good night's work, and this was that kind of game."
For Boston, it was the kind of game better forgotten, not so much because of a poor performance, but because the Capitals had effectively bottled up the Bruins, forcing them to turn over the puck too many times.
Goalie Pete Peeters did not have one of his better nights, despite having the most victories (36) in the NHL. On Gustafsson's first goal, he watched helplessly as the puck passed through his legs.
On Gustafsson's next goal-scoring shot, which he took at the same spot, right in front of Peeters' cage, the goalie started to stretch out his leg even as the puck beat him on his glove side.
During the middle period, Peeters, obviously concerned about his club's lack of offense, skated out of his cage to try to freeze the puck against the boards. But while Peeters tied up the puck, he became tied up himself, suddenly surrounded by Capitals trying to race away fro a shot at the empty net.Teammate Mike O'Connell swept the puck away and back toward the Washington zone while spectators booed what could have been a costly move by Peeters. They booed even louder at the final result.
Ken Houston, who strained ligaments in his right knee when he crashed into the boards during Wednesday Night's game with Hartford, was to be re-examined Friday by team physician Stephen Haas to determine when he can play again. The first diagnosis suggested Houston could be out for 10 days.