It may have been the greatest comeback in the Washington Capitals' 11-year history. Bryan Erickson scored twice in the last 3 1/2 minutes to wipe out a two-goal deficit today and Dave Christian's overtime goal gave the Capitals a 5-4 triumph over the Boston Bruins.
It was Washington's fourth straight success and brings the Capitals home on a roll for a four-game series at Capital Centre that begins Sunday night at 7 against Pittsburgh.
Christian, Erickson and Dean Evason all scored key goals for the Capitals without realizing the puck was in the net. Christian's game winner at 1:20 of overtime, the Capitals' only shot of the extra period, came as a most unwelcome shock for the Bruins and the crowd of 12,210. Perhaps the only person not surprised was the one who painted the sign that usually hangs in Capital Centre: "Christian Makes Miracles."
Christian tried a centering pass from the left-wing circle and the puck caromed off Boston's Mike O'Connell and skidded back toward the corner. Christian retrieved it and, with his stick over the goal line, launched a backhand pass that struck goalie Doug Keans' right skate and deflected into the net.
"I was a little lucky on that," Christian said. "I didn't even look. I was going down and I tried to throw it in front, because I knew Locker (Craig Laughlin) was there. The puck was behind the goal line when I got rid of it.
"I ran into the end boards and Locker came over. I thought he was seeing if I was all right. I didn't know it was in."
"I was playing the middle of the net the first time he sent it in," Keans said. "The puck went up in the air and I lost it, so I wasn't guarding the post the way I should have."
"We got a lucky goal to win it," said Washington captain Rod Langway. "Maybe the bounces do even out. We've had enough go against us. When they got three goals up in the first period, I thought it would be a blowout. When you're down 3-0 in this building, you don't normally come back."
Goals by Terry O'Reilly, Keith Crowder and Charlie Simmer -- the first of his two -- built the Bruins' 3-0 margin over the first 20 minutes.
The Capitals battled back to within a goal by outshooting Boston, 12-3, in the second period. Evason started the rally by deflecting Darren Veitch's drive from the left point. It was Evason's first NHL goal, but it took him a moment to appreciate it.
"I didn't see it go in," he said. "I was facing Darren and he made a perfect shot. I happened to get my stick on it and I redirected it. When I turned around, I saw the puck in the net."
Washington closed to 3-2 on the first goal this season by Gaetan Duchesne, who played for the first time without a brace guarding the left hand that was broken in the season opener. Duchesne took Langway's headman pass and beat Keans on a breakaway.
"They made a change and when I saw Rod with the puck, I broke on the wing," Duchesne said. "I beat the defenseman and cut in front. Some guy hooked me and I lost the puck. It went under the goalie, but I kept going and it came right back on my stick. I was in front of an open net."
Washington goalie Pat Riggin, now 8-2 against Boston, made some excellent saves early in the third period. Then Simmer's second goal, at the end of a two-on-one with Steve Kasper, gave the Bruins a 4-2 margin with 7:06 left in regulation.
"I thought we were still in it," Erickson said. "We were only two goals down and hockey is such a momentum game, if you get one, you can turn things around."
That was the way it happened. Greg Adams jolted O'Connell off the puck just outside the crease at Keans' left. The puck bounced out in front and Erickson quickly whipped it home with 3:24 remaining.
Washington Coach Bryan Murray took a timeout with 2:15 left, then Riggin was lifted for a sixth skater with 1:23 on the clock. For the second time this season, the Capitals scored with their goalie on the bench.
It was Bob Carpenter who made the big play, knifing between two defenders to keep the puck inside the Boston blueline and feeding Erickson in the deep slot. Keans got his glove on Erickson's high shot, juggled it and dropped it behind himself with 1:12 left.
"The shot was really tight to the corner and I was disappointed when I saw him glove it," Erickson said. "I didn't know I'd scored."
The Capitals became angered early in the overtime, as Boston's Louis Sleigher yanked Carpenter down in wrestling fashion and skated into the crease to throw an elbow at Riggin, who was busy gloving a drive by Ray Bourque. There was no penalty call by referee Denis Morel and, for further aggravation, he refused to take the faceoff outside the zone, although both Boston defensemen were involved in the resulting fuss around the net.
A few seconds later, Christian ended the Capitals' seventh overtime this season. They have won two, coming from behind in each. The other five wound up tied, with the opposition scoring the last goal each time.