Mike Allison's goal with 3:53 remaining gave the New York Rangers a 6-5 victory over the Washington Capitals last night in a controversy-filled contest that displeased a Capital Centre crowd of 14,751.
New York, winless entering the game, used a major penalty against Washington's Alan Haworth to turn a 4-1 deficit into a 5-4 lead, scoring on four straight shots in the second period.
That ruling, plus several other disputed decisions and the Rangers' successful disruption of play with frequent delays, prompted Washington Coach Bryan Murray to chase referee Ron Wicks into the officials' room after both the second and third periods.
For placing his hands on Wicks, Murray received a gross misconduct penalty, which carries a $100 fine and must be reviewed by NHL President John Ziegler for possible suspension.
The Capitals, with Bob Gould scoring twice and Gary Sampson netting a shorthanded goal, were breezing after one period. However, forced to play shorthanded for nine minutes of the second period, they managed only two shots on goal, the first with 2:57 remaining.
Haworth was chased for five minutes at 10:56, after his stick caught the Rangers' Ron Greschner on the bridge of the nose.
Greschner crumpled to the ice, thinking he had been cut in the eye, and Haworth skated over solicitously. Wicks had not seen the incident, but linesman Ron Foyt reported it and indicated a major penalty was warranted.
"Last year, on a similar play, I asked the same linesman for a major penalty and he said, 'Aw, Bryan, it wasn't intentional,' and gave the other team two," Murray said. "Well, I don't think anyone watching could possibly have felt this was intentional."
"We went in the corner for the puck and I beat him to it," Haworth said. "The puck went around him and I was off balance as I tried to get to it. My stick was up and I poked him in the eye. I went to see him -- I was afraid I'd poked his eye out.
"Wicks didn't see it and he asked Foyt if it was a high stick or a slash. He said it was a high stick and five minutes."
It took New York only 58 seconds to score, with Greschner recovering quickly enough to deflect Willie Huber's slap shot past Riggin.
"For one second I couldn't see and I thought it got me in the eye," Greschner said. "But I've got such a big nose, it protected my eye."
A goal does not terminate a major penalty, as it does a minor, so Haworth still was in the box when Don Maloney cut through the right-wing circle after faking Rod Langway to the ice and fed Tomas Sandstrom for another goal at 13:36.
Just 16 seconds later, the game was tied, Reijo Ruotsalainen easing in from the right-wing circle and slipping a backhander past Riggin.
The crowd was beginning to cheer Haworth's return, but four seconds after he was out of the box, and before he could reach the play, Jan Erixon converted Dave Gagner's pass from behind the net to give New York a 5-4 lead.
"I did not believe it," Haworth said. "One goal after another, going in while I sat watching. You have to feel guilty about that. Then I didn't have time to get to the net and they score again."
With 70 seconds left in the period, the Rangers' Tom Laidlaw went off for interference and the Capitals' power play tied the score at 5. From a faceoff in the right-wing circle, Bob Carpenter shoved the puck toward the net and Mike Gartner beat goalie Glen Hanlon to it, scoring his 200th NHL goal.
The third period contained many elements of farce, as the Rangers repeatedly delayed the action and frustrated players began punching each other.
The only play that meant anything occurred with 3:53 to go. Ruotsalainen's shot from the right point struck Washington's Peter Andersson in the foot and he fell to the ice. Play continued and Erixon knocked the puck in front, from where Allison shoved it past Riggin.
It was a most welcome goal for Allison, making his first appearance following knee surgery.
In the principal fistic event of the period, Washington's Scott Stevens squared off with Sandstrom following an exchange of high sticks. Stevens pursued Sandstrom to the penalty box, was physically hauled away by Foyt and received a game misconduct penalty. Laidlaw also was ejected as the third man in, a somewhat undeserved fate since he was trying to pull Sandstrom away from Stevens.
"All night Sandstrom kept sticking me after the whistle," Stevens said. "I don't know what he thinks my name is -- Stevensson, maybe."
Play actually began to deteriorate two minutes before Haworth's penalty, on a weird play that was difficult for anyone to understand. As it evolved later, New York's Mike Blaisdell drew a delayed penalty for slashing Gartner.
When play stopped, Blaisdell rushed at Andre Hidi, waving the butt end of his stick in Hidi's face. Gartner, trying to keep Blaisdell away from Hidi, whacked him with his stick. A four-man pileup ensued, with Blaisdell on the bottom, then linesman Gord Broseker, then Foyt and, on top, the powerful Hidi.
When all were unpiled, Blaisdell and Hidi received majors for fighting and Gartner was assessed a slashing minor that negated Blaisdell's original foul.
"When it was a 4-1 hockey game, it was a joke," Murray said. "At the start of the second period, Foyt is laughing with Sampson (both are from International Falls, Minn.) and I told him to stay away from our bench.
"I tried not to say anything to Wicks (object of a three-year feud), but he's talking and wisecracking to the bench. Then the game gets serious and it's still a joke, because the Rangers are sending four guys out, or six guys out, and delaying everything, and Wicks won't take control and stop it.
"It's hard for me to have a lot of respect. We work hard to get our teams ready and they treat it like that. It cost us two points to a team in our division."