The Washington Capitals' Massachusetts connection sent the Boston Bruins home unhappy yesterday. Bob Carpenter of Peabody scored two goals and Rod Langway of Randolph was outstanding on defense as the Capitals won, 5-1, to provide a happy New Year's afternoon for most of the 15,136 spectators at Capital Centre.
Although goalie Pat Riggin has no Massachusetts ties, he loves to play against the Bruins. Riggin, now the No. 1 man of a three-goalie group with Al Jensen being recalled from Binghamton yesterday, increased his career record against Boston to 9-2 with a 25-save effort that included several quality stops with the game still in doubt.
"I like to play in Boston because it's a small rink -- a goalie's rink," Riggin said. "I guess it carries over. When you win a few games against a hockey club, you feel confident and it gives you a little edge."
Carpenter, who added an assist, has 30 goals and 51 points in 39 games, which leaves him on target for a 60-goal, 100-point season.
"Having 30 this early is a big surprise," he said. "Hopefully, I can put the first half-season behind me and do it again the second half."
Langway, although saying he was affected by a flu bug that has bothered him since the club was in Montreal Dec. 20, was dumping opposing forwards and blocking shots in his usual dominating manner, especially on Boston's seven unsuccessful power plays.
"That was a big win," he said. "They played their normal game, with a lot of hitting, and they work hard. But there aren't many teams that work as hard as we do."
Boston Coach Gerry Cheevers, disappointed with the end of the Bruins' four-game unbeaten streak, echoed Langway's analysis.
"They worked their butts off," Cheevers said. "To beat Washington you have to work hard, and I think we worked hard, but not as hard as them.
"Pat Riggin was excellent. We had some pretty good chances, but he stopped us. The big reason why we didn't win, though, was our power play. It was no good. Their penalty killers were quite aggressive in our end and we couldn't get set up. And when we got down there, Langway was blocking the shots. That's one of his fortes and we should have been holding it longer."
Over the first 19 games, when the Capitals were a mediocre 6-8-5, their penalty killers allowed 25 goals in 77 chances, a success rate of 67.5 percent. Over the last 20, as they have gone 16-2-2, the penalty killing figures read 11 in 65 opportunities, or 83.1 percent. That figure is not far from their league-leading 86.7 of a year ago and a key to why they hold first place in the Patrick Division, four points ahead of Philadelphia and 10 in front of the New York Islanders.
Washington Coach Bryan Murray credited the penalty-killing reversal to Doug Jarvis, who made an exhaustive study of the reasons for the early-season failure.
"We knew what to do as a unit, but there were a lot of individual mistakes," Jarvis said. "Everybody has been correcting his mistakes and we're getting momentum. When things go wrong, they tend to get worse, and when they go well, they tend to get better."
Things were going Washington's way again yesterday, a fact easily illustrated by the Capitals' first three goals.
Carpenter opened the scoring with a midair deflection of a shot by Scott Stevens. When Stevens shot a moment earlier, Carpenter had his back turned.
"Scotty took a shot and I wasn't in position and I was upset, because I knew I could have been there," Carpenter said. "Then I got the puck back to him and the second time I was ready. I knocked it out of the air and it went between his (goalie Doug Keans') legs. Some nights you get the breaks, some nights you don't."
Keith Crowder pulled Boston even with a drive from the left-wing circle 15 seconds before the first period ended, but the Capitals were not deflated.
"It was just a good shot by them," Langway said. "We can live with those goals. We got the big goal in the second period and then Patty made some big saves for us."
The "big goal" was the third of the season by Bengt Gustafsson, who took Mike McEwen's pass in the left-wing circle and lined a shot off the inside of Keans' pad.
Before the second period ended, Riggin made a sensational save on Barry Pederson and benefited when Charlie Simmer put a backhander wide on a breakaway.
"He had me beat, but I was pretty deep in the net and I don't think he realized how close in he was before he tried to shoot," Riggin said.
Early in the third period, Gustafsson, near the left-wing boards, made a superb pass to Bryan Erickson, wide open near the right post. Erickson faked out Keans, then slid the puck past him. It was a second-chance pass by Gustafsson because he had swung and missed a second earlier.
"I looked up and I missed the puck, but it turned out like a good fake," Gustafsson said. "A (Boston) guy skated by me and he missed it, too. Butsy (Erickson) said there was a guy in front of him the first time, but by the time he got the puck he was all alone."
Two excellent stops by Riggin, on Ray Bourque and Rick Middleton, helped the Capitals survive a brief two-man shortage. Then, with each team missing a man, Larry Murphy poke-checked the puck free from Boston's Mike Milbury and initiated a two-on-one that Carpenter finished by converting Mike Gartner's pass for a 4-1 lead.
Gartner closed the scoring with the Capitals two men up, after referee Bob Hall sent Ken Linseman off for holding and Tom Fergus for protesting the call.