Robert Picard, who endured many a boo in Capital Centre during the Washington Capitals' sorry days, took a measure of revenge last night. His close-range backhander with 96 seconds to play gave the Winnipeg Jets a 7-5 victory that broke Washington's six-game winning streak.
Paul MacLean completed the scoring into an empty net as the Jets earned their first success in nine visits to the Centre and won only their third in 18 games with Washington. The last previous meeting, though, Feb. 17, saw the Jets stop another Capitals winning streak, the club-record 10-game run.
The finish proved a giant letdown for the Capitals and most of the 12,072 fans, since Larry Murphy had raised hopes of a comeback victory by lifting Washington into a 5-5 tie with 4:53 remaining.
For Picard, who held court for a large group of friends and relatives outside the Winnipeg dressing room, the game-winning goal was both further proof that he is enjoying his finest season and the climax of an emotional day. It included a visit by Picard, a 1977-80 Capital, to the grave of his father-in-law, William Sanford, who died in September.
"I always have a big feeling when I come here, because I started in the NHL here and I met my wife here," Picard said. "But this time there was really big emotion. I saw my father-in-law at the cemetery and I wanted to win for him. My in-laws were all here tonight. I'm glad I could do something to make them happy.
"The big thing was just winning. We had never won here and even though we've been playing well on the road, we were concerned about the hockey game. They had won six straight and they weren't giving up many goals.
"When we got the two early ones, they had to open up and I don't think they play that well when they open up, where we like that style."
Picard was prominent in setting up two goals in the first six minutes, although he confessed that what seemed like a perfect pass to Brian Mullen for a tapin actually was an off-target shot.
"I was trying to shoot and it jumped, but you take them all," Picard said.
Washington bounced back with four straight scores as Dave Christian, Mike McEwen, Rod Langway and Bob Carpenter beat Cornell graduate Brian Hayward in the Winnipeg net. Carpenter's goal was his 20th and it came in the 26th game, 40 games earlier than his 20th a year ago.
Three of the Capitals' goals came with each team a man short and ex-Jet captain Christian was on the ice for all of them.
Carpenter converted Christian's pass in such a situation for a 4-2 lead, following a weird penalty against Doug Jarvis, his second of the season. With Winnipeg's Dave Ellett off for cross checking, Jarvis tried to pass to the point. The puck struck referee Kerry Fraser and caromed to the Jets' Laurie Boschman. Jarvis hooked him trying to regain possession and was sent off.
Jarvis was still off when the Jets rallied on the power play, Dave Babych picking off a clear by Scott Stevens and releasing a shot that was deflected into the net by Dale Hawerchuk at 9:39 of the second period.
The Capitals had numerous chances to boost their advantage in the next 17 minutes, but Hayward held them at bay until Boschman and Thomas Steen scored 64 seconds apart to give the Jets a 5-4 lead.
"When we were ahead, 4-2, it looked like we would blow them out," said Washington Coach Bryan Murray. "But we made a mistake on the power play to give them a goal and then Hayward made some big stops. We could have had five or six, but he kept them in it."
Hayward was fortunate to be around for the finish. In the first period, he was struck on the side of the head by a Stevens slap shot and lay on the ice for several minutes before resuming play.
"His vision wasn't blurred, so I left him in," said Winnipeg Coach Barry Long. "It was a tossup decision at the time."
It turned out to be a winning decision, as Hayward ended with 29 saves. He had no chance on Murphy's tying score, since Picard blocked a shot by Bryan Erickson and Murphy raced into the slot and fired an accurate backhander under the crossbar.
Picard's winner was similar, a backhander over goalie Pat Riggin after Picard swept out of the corner at Riggin's left. The goal followed a faceoff in which Hawerchuk outdrew Carpenter, as he did most of the night.
"Our centerman won the draw and everybody went toward the middle," Picard said. "I figured I'd hold in the corner and see what Rod Langway would do. I saw Paul MacLean come out from behind the net and I thought he'd stuff it, but Rod Langway went for him and it left me open. There was no way I was going to give Pat Riggin a chance to stop it."
The Jets are 7-3-2 on the road, and the result was a downer for Murray, whose wife, Geri, had given birth to their second daughter, Brittany, earlier in the day.
"What a way to end the day," Murry said.