The Washington Capitals broke a 3-3 tie with three goals in 42 seconds, fastest trio of scores in the team's 10-year history, and went on to beat the Winnipeg Jets, 7-3, tonight to extend their winning streak to five games.
Mike Gartner's hat trick comprised all of Washington's scoring until 13:32 of the third period, when Bob Gould connected twice within 12 seconds and Larry Murphy added his first Capitals goal 30 seconds later. Dave Christian, the former Winnipeg captain, finalized the score on a breakaway in his first encounter with his former teammates.
The offensive showing, by a team that had experienced scoring problems until Saturday's 6-1 victory in Minnesota, enabled the Capitals to set another team record with four straight road victories. The five triumphs overall matched one more mark dating to March 1980.
"We've got a good thing going, everybody's playing well and we just hope it continues," said goalie Al Jensen, who has played every game in the streak and made two sensational saves with the score 3-3.
The Capitals seemed in deep trouble when Dave Babych's power-play goal pulled Winnipeg even at 5:56 of the third period. That followed the Jets' successful kill of a major penalty against Jimmy Mann, who had carved Bengt Gustafsson's chin for a seven-stitch cut.
Jensen dove out to knock the puck off the stick of Doug Smail, sent in alone by Thomas Steen on a two-on-one break, and then scrambled to deflect a shot by Scott Arniel, who was unguarded in front when the puck caromed to him.
Craig Laughlin deflected a shot by Christian off the post behind Winnipeg's Brian Hayward before Gould suddenly erased the tension for the crowd of 10,803.
Gustafsson, back from the dressing room, sent the puck off the side of the net. It went behind and he pursued it, only to be tied up by Moe Mantha. But Gustafsson was able to kick the puck out front and Gould, whose shooting is restricted by a jammed right wrist, knocked it between Hayward's legs for a 4-3 lead with 6:28 left.
"I don't know how the puck got out there, but I saw it and just shot it toward the net," Gould said. "It wasn't planned; it just happened to get through him."
"He (Mantha) was behind me and locked my arms, so all I could do was kick it out," Gustafsson said.
The Jets had no chance for another comeback. From the next faceoff, Alan Haworth carried down the left wing and passed into the slot to Gould, who joined the puck in the net with 6:16 on the clock.
"I was just going for the net and Howie put it in front," Gould said. "I was reaching a little bit and the defenseman pushed me in."
Murphy beat Hayward from the left-wing circle with 5:46 left to send the crowd streaming toward the exits. But those who stayed saluted Christian when he carried the puck into the crease and slid it between Hayward's legs.
"We didn't need it, but it made me feel good," Christian said. " . . . I have no hard feelings at all about the trade--I asked to leave here--but it's always nice to play your old team and do well."
Before Gould, it was Gartner who put on the show. It was his seventh career hat trick and marked the second time--he did it against Boston in March--that he had scored a natural hat trick, three straight goals without another score intervening.
Gartner, who celebrated his 24th birthday Saturday, took over after Morris Lukowich provided the Jets with an early lead. Laughlin stripped the puck from Babych during a Washington power play and Gartner punched it in to tie the game at 12:37 of the first period.
Jensen and Hayward matched superb saves until Gartner hit again at 9:11 of the second period, finishing off a two-on-one with Christian. Defenseman Don Spring was left behind by Christian's sudden spurt up ice.
After Jensen made an excellent glove save on Paul MacLean, Gartner boosted the Capitals' lead to 3-1 by deflecting Scott Stevens' slap shot past Hayward.
Brian Mullen reduced the Jets' deficit to 3-2 before the second period ended and set up the frantic finish.
This was the teams' 15th meeting since Winnipeg joined the NHL in 1979 and the Jets have won only one, with four tied.