When Coach Bryan Murray of the Washington Capitals left Buffalo after Friday's 3-2 loss, he merely felt that he had been robbed. Yesterday he learned the feeling of a victim who is also arrested.
On a day when the Capitals' coach ordered two of his players off the ice after tempers flared in practice, Murray also learned he had been assessed his second gross misconduct penalty of the season, this one by referee Don Koharski for his postgame complaints. That calls for an automatic $100 fine and review of possible further disciplinary action by NHL President John Ziegler.
As in the case of the first gross misconduct, issued by referee Ron Wicks on Oct. 20, Murray learned of the penalty from a reporter. He produced his copy of the final game sheet, signed by Koharski, which had no mention of a penalty.
Apparently, Koharski, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, wrote his report on the original sheet, after the copies had been distributed.
"Koharski said he was giving Murray the gross misconduct not so much because of his language, but because he had to be removed from the officials' path," said John McCauley, assistant director of officiating, who was present in Buffalo and confirmed the penalty yesterday. "Some referees handle it differently. Some feel it's necessary to make a point when they have not been able to resolve a difficult situation with conversation. It's a bad situation in Buffalo, with everyone forced to leave by the same exit. But that's not condoning somebody's actions."
Murray admitted that he had waited for Koharski and used some strong language to express his feelings over a late penalty against Washington's Mike Gartner that enabled Buffalo to score the winning goal.
"I was upset -- that's normal," Murray said. "But I didn't get in his way. I kept walking along with him and there was both a cop and a security guard between us. (Linesman) Ray Scapinello said, 'Bryan, don't touch anybody,' and I said, 'I have no intention of touching anybody.' Koharski told me he was willing to talk to me, but I told him, 'I don't want to talk to you. You've just stolen two points from us.' I called him a few things, but there was no mention of any penalty or any kind of a warning."
Ziegler was not in his New York office yesterday. He took no action beyond the specified $100 fine after Murray's confrontation with Wicks at Capital Centre, following a 6-5 loss to the New York Rangers. However, a second such violation might prompt Ziegler to suspend Murray for a game or two.
Murray's day had not been a particularly bright one even before he learned of the penalty yesterday afternoon. During morning practice, he chastised the players for sloppy passing and he ordered defensemen Scott Stevens and Timo Blomqvist off the ice when they squared off and refused his initial order to calm down.
Then, to complete his day, Murray learned last night that goaltender Al Jensen, who seemed fine during the practice, had suffered a pulled muscle in his side and would be unable to play for a few days. Bob Mason was recalled from Binghamton to assist Pat Riggin, who has played 12 of the Capitals' 16 games.
Stevens, who had been foiled on three straight close-range shots, broke his stick on the ice and threw the shaft into the net. Blomqvist apparently said something and Stevens wanted to fight him.
Murray quickly got in between, but when they persisted, he finally shouted, "Get off the ice, both of you. I'm tired of this . . . "
Blomqvist was sent to the dressing room, while Stevens watched the rest of the practice from the bench. After the formal session ended, Stevens worked on his shooting and was the last player to leave.
"I'd far sooner get them off the ice than have somebody hurt with four games coming up this week," Murray said. "I like competitive fire, but sometimes it becomes a little bit of nonsense. They're partners sometimes and they ought to learn to work together."
In another recent practice, Stevens tripped over Larry Murphy's skate as he backpedaled and sat on the ice. He threw his stick, then rose and kicked his helmet, before completing his demonstration by throwing a water bottle.
"I'm serious in the games and I'm serious in practice," Stevens said. "You've got to be serious in practice or you tend to relax, and that's not good. I usually get mad at myself, but today I missed those three shots and Timo said something."
"That was nothing," Blomqvist said. "It's all over."
Tonight the Capitals can focus all their frustrations on a familiar foe, as they visit Nassau Coliseum for their first meeting of the season (WDCA-TV-20 at 8 p.m.) against the New York Islanders, who yesterday dealt goaltender Roland Melanson to Minnesota for a first-round draft choice.
"It's been a while and everybody wants to beat them," Stevens said. "Hopefully, this year we'll get them. It's been a frustrating season so far, because we've been playing really well and we haven't gotten any breaks.
"At the start we were trying to score too much, but we've played great defensive hockey the last four games. We're back into the form of last year and now we ought to get rolling."