Seven was the Washington Capitals' magic number tonight. There was no luck involved, however, as the Capitals outchecked and outskated Philadelphia, 5-2, for their seventh straight victory against the Flyers.
Washington, which will open the regular season Thursday in Philadelphia, completed its exhibition campaign with seven victories in a row. The Capitals' 8-2 record is the best in the NHL and they have scored 45 goals, more than any other team.
"We made big strides last year with our responsible play and stress on defense," Coach Bryan Murray said. "Now, more people are going to the net and doing some things we maybe didn't do before."
One man in that category was defensive specialist Gaetan Duchesne. He set up a goal by Glen Currie to break a 2-2 tie and scored on the end of a two-on-one with Bob Gould.
Duchesne and Currie also connected in Thursday's 6-3 victory over Hartford. If the Gee Whiz Line can continue to score while maintaining its defensive excellence, there may be no stopping the Capitals.
"This is my fourth year and I feel just great," Duchesne said. "I have more confidence in what I can do. Before was my first contract and I just thought I'd work hard and do things to make the team.
"Now I try to keep the puck more, make the plays and go for the net. Kid (Currie) and Gouldie and I know each other and we know if one of us should get caught, another guy will cover up for him.
"We've been building confidence in the preseason, but we have to be careful. Last year, we built too much confidence, we thought it would be easy and we started 0-7 and got all nervous. We won't be 0-7 this year."
"That game should give Gaet a lot of confidence," Murray said. "He made great plays, he was all over the place. He had to be the star of the night. He's always gotten a lot of chances, but he hasn't always gone to the net before.
"I've upgraded my expectations of that line. Bobby Gould should be a 20-goal scorer and Gaetan Duchesne should be a 20-goal scorer. If they can do that and Glen Currie can get 12 or 15, maybe better, we'll have one heck of a line."
The Gee Whizzers were not the only Capitals who played well. Center Jim McGeough scored a sensational goal to tie the game at 2. He knocked down Dave Christian's pass in midair, skated in on a breakaway and drove the puck between the pads of goalie Bob Froese. Alan Haworth and Mike Gartner had the other goals.
Defenseman Darren Veitch, volunteering to play his fourth game in four nights, enjoyed his best exhibition.
As a result, General Manager David Poile faces some tough decisions Saturday when he reduces his 28-man squad to manageable proportions.
Defenseman Dave Shand, who suffered a cracked sinus bone two weeks ago, made his first exhibition appearance and delivered a couple of devastating checks on Derrick Smith.
Brian Propp scored both Philadelphia goals as the Flyers built a 2-1 first-period lead. Goalie Pat Riggin, who stopped 23 shots, kept Propp from a hat trick with a spectacular third-period save.
Unusual for Capitals-Flyers games, there was only one fight. Philadelphia's Don Nachbaur took a run at little Dean Evason in the third period, then found himself looking at the Capitals' Scott Stevens, instead.
Stevens decked him and suggested en route to the penalty box that, in the future, Nachbaur pick on somebody his own size.