There were four different viewpoints of Carey Wilson's winning goal for the Calgary Flames tonight. All four agreed on one essential item: the puck wound up in the Washington net.
Wilson slipped behind the Capitals' defense, fought off Rod Langway's check and shoved the puck into the crease. When it crossed the goal line with 8:39 remaining, the Flames had a 4-3 lead and they padded it to a 5-3 finale on Eddy Beers' empty-net score with 32 seconds left.
"It wasn't a shot at all, but it ended up flipping through his legs," said Wilson, a Canadian Olympian who attended Dartmouth and now has scored at least one point in eight straight games. "I held up for a second, because I thought Langway had an edge on me, but then I realized I had an edge on him.
"I wanted to fake right and slide the puck around him (Riggin) to the left. But he didn't go for the fake and I wound up pushing it between his legs. At least, I think I did. I'm not certain. He may have carried it in himself."
"He came in and tried to drag it behind him, but I went with him," Riggin said. "I originally stopped it, but it came out two or three inches and he tipped it back in."
"He had one hand on the stick and he threw it under Patty," Langway said. "There was no mustard on it, because I'd pretty well ridden him off it, but I guess there was enough to go in."
Coach Bryan Murray did not care how the puck got in. He was upset that Wilson was able to slip behind Langway and Scott Stevens.
"It was a 3-3 game and we're usually very patient, but here's Carey Wilson at the blueline behind our two defensemen, who are leading the attack," Murray said. "We don't need to win it with eight minutes left. We're on the road. We ought to wait."
If Riggin did sit on the puck and nudge it across the goal line, as it seemed from the replay, he still had nothing to be ashamed of. He stopped 40 shots and kept the Capitals in the game by making 20 saves in the first period.
"Pat Riggin was just outstanding," Murray said. "They had quality chances after quality chances and he made one great save after another. It's a darn shame. He's played so well and he has only one win and a couple of ties."
Murray was fit to be tied over the performance of his penalty-killing unit, which gave up three power-play goals in four chances and has now yielded 11 in 36 this season, after leading the NHL a year ago.
"We appeared to be a little rattled; not as confident as we should be," Murray said. "Four on three, we were running out to the point and leaving openings behind us."
For added aggravation, if any was needed, center Bengt Gustafsson was checked hard from behind by Steve Konroyd in the first period and limped off, having once more aggravated the right hamstring he first injured during the Canada Cup.
Gustafsson had just returned to the lineup in Wednesday's 3-3 tie at Edmonton. Tonight's injury appeared serious enough to require a lengthy recuperation.
Mike Gartner scored two goals in 2 1/2 minutes for the Capitals, sending them into a 2-1 lead early in the second period. But referee Bob Hall's decision to give Beers and Bob Gould double minors for a brief fracas, rather than majors that would not have reduced the teams' numbers, proved disastrous to Washington.
Before the two returned to the ice, Calgary had turned two foolish Washington penalties into four-on-three goals and a 3-2 advantage.
First Dave Christian grabbed Kari Eloranta in the Calgary end and was chased for holding. It took only 14 seconds for Paul Reinhart to score on a rebound of Allan MacInnes' shot.
Then Stevens cross checked Eloranta behind the Calgary net. Twenty-five seconds after he went off, Kent Nilsson scored from the left-wing circle.
Christian converted a beautiful pass from Bob Carpenter to tie it at 3-3 before the second period ended. Carpenter raced down the left wing, cut inside and fed the puck to Christian, who had slipped behind Konroyd, for a tap-in.
Early in the third period, the Capitals enjoyed a little luck, as both Hakan Loob and Nilsson rattled goal posts. The luck ran out, however, when Wilson slipped behind the Washington defense.
By scoring tonight, Calgary established an NHL record of going 231 games without being shut out. Quebec had held the record, 230. Edmonton, the bitter rival to the north, reached 229 before being blanked at Hartford last season.
This was the Capitals' first road loss in four games and dropped their record to 2-3-2. The Flames, who have surpassed Edmonton as the highest-scoring team in the NHL, are 6-2.