It was a day of anticipation yesterday in the camp of the Washington Capitals, who believe they can beat the New York Islanders today at 1 p.m. (WTOP-1500) in the first-ever National Hockey League playoff game at Capital Centre, then wrap up the series here Sunday night.
It is not a feeling that was prevalent in the dressing room prior to Thursday's shocker, a 4-2 victory over the defending Stanley Cup champions that evened this best-of-five series at 1-1.
But Bobby Gould, a prime candidate for the Selke Trophy as the NHL's top defensive forward, continued to be offensive with his second straight two-goal game and this time his teammates, who had watched in admiration the night before, decided to join in the fun.
"Now that everybody's got a taste of winning, we believe we can beat them," Gould said. "It puts us back in the race. If we'd come home down two-nothing, that would have been an awful tough hole to climb out of. Now we have new life.
"I had some doubts about our chances coming in, after that 7-1 beating here last week. If they had beaten us 2-1 or something close, it would have been different. But the way they beat us and had us chasing the puck all night, it was like a game of shinny for them. And in the back of my mind, I had to wonder if we could beat these guys in the playoffs or not.
"They played their typical good hockey game in the first game and beat us, but maybe we surprised them the way we forechecked them in the second game. We never had done it successfully before. It's a five-game series and one win doesn't give us the Cup, but it certainly gives us a big lift."
Gould's four goals are only a small part of the story. He and linemates Gaetan Duchesne and Glen Currie have not been on the ice for an Islander goal in the two games. Any time the Islanders started pressing a Washington line Thursday night, Murray immediately summoned the Gee Whiz Line and play returned to the New York end.
"For our line, the principal job is still to keep the puck out of our net," Gould said. "We can't change. We'll just play our game, up and down the wings, and be sure to get the puck out of our end successfully.
"I don't know where the goals are coming from. I've fooled around with some things in practice, but everything happens so fast out there you just do it, you don't stop to think about it."
Gould opened the scoring Thursday on a sensational rink-length dash, in which he put a fake on Tomas Jonsson, the Islanders' top plus-minus player, and then deked goalie Bill Smith before depositing the puck behind him. Later, he scored the eventual game winner on a rebound of a Duchesne shot after he had stolen a Jonsson pass and fed Duchesne in front.
"I had a good head of steam up on that first one and I was kind of surprised when I got by Jonsson," Gould said. "I had a lot of ice and where I usually shoot, this time I deked and got it in the little space that Smitty left me.
"The second time, I just showed a little patience and lifted it over him. My problem usually is that I get excited when I get the puck. I want to shoot hard, but when I get a chance I have to get in position to shoot first. It's something I'm working on."
Asked whether Gould's exploits were surprising him, Murray said, "I'm not surprised by the way he's playing. Ninety-nine percent of the time I get consistently good work from Gaetan, Glen and Bobby when they're together.
"I am a little surprised to see the offensive results in bunches like that. But that line does create pressure and get the chances. As they learn to take advantage of them, they'll be even better."
Al Jensen will be back in goal for the Capitals today. He has a 16-4-3 record at home, 7-8-3 on the road after his victory Thursday . . . "I'm going on the idea that when you win, you don't change anything," Murray said. That means Milan Novy and Ted Bulley will not dress . . . Although Murray indicated he might go with three defensemen at certain times today, as he did Thursday until Scott Stevens was ejected, he said Timo Blomqvist and Randy Holt would get considerable ice time, after their fine effort Thursday . . . Brian Engblom played 32 minutes Thursday, Rod Langway 29 1/2 . . . The team, which was scheduled to charter a flight home from Long Island after Thursday's game, was forced to return to its hotel by fog. The flight yesterday morning arrived just before Baltimore-Washington International was closed and in time for an afternoon practice at the Centre . . . Late yesterday afternoon, less than 100 tickets remained for today's game. Although ample tickets are available for Sunday, only singles are left at the top price of $15.50.