Chris Valentine scored two goals tonight and took a big step toward another goal--staying with the Washington Capitals instead of starting the season in Hershey.
Valentine, playing center in place of the injured Bobby Carpenter, broke a 1-1 tie late in the first period, then dazzled the New York Rangers with a sensational score that made it 3-1 and helped carry the unbeaten Capitals to a 6-3 victory. In nine exhibitions, Washington has seven triumphs and two ties.
Right wing Butsy Erickson stole the puck from Ranger Mike Allison and set up Valentine for the tie breaker. Then Valentine, carrying the puck down the left side on a two-on-one with Erickson, fooled the Rangers by cutting to his right into the slot and drawing goalie John VanBiesbrouck out of the net before hitting the vacant twines.
"We need some goals and Chris has always been able to score goals," said General Manager David Poile. "It's a case of getting him to be consistent offensively and defensively. If he can contribute by scoring and not hurt us defensively, there is a place for Chris here."
Valentine scored 30 goals in 60 games for Washington as a rookie two seasons ago, playing mostly at right wing because of the club's abundance of centers. Last season, as a center in Hershey, he connected 31 times in 51 games, and added seven in 23 games of spot duty with the Capitals.
"I have a lot more confidence at center, because I have so much more freedom and room to do things, especially handle the puck," Valentine said. "I really have to concentrate on the wing, because I never played it except for Washington.
"It was an adjustment the last two years. The first year, I didn't expect to stay here and I did. Then last year, I expected to stay and didn't. I had to prove myself all over and I thought I warranted a better chance after the year I had. On the other hand, though, Washington had the best year it ever had, so I'm sure they knew what they were doing."
Dave Christian also scored twice, once in a five-on-three situation and then into an empty net with 21 seconds remaining. Doug Jarvis opened the scoring after just 18 seconds and Bobby Gould netted his own rebound late in the third period.
The Capitals, who lost Carpenter and Peter Andersson with injuries Sunday, got a scare when All-Star defenseman Rod Langway crumpled to the ice after being struck inside the right knee by a Willie Huber shot in the first period. The diagnosis was a bone bruise and Langway said he would be back on skates Thursday.
"I tried to come back, but it stiffened right up," Langway said.