Thirteen months ago at Capital Centre, Scott Stevens scored two goals for the Washington Capitals, but they wound up losing to Detroit in overtime. Tonight, for the first time since that contest, Stevens enjoyed another two-goal game against the Red Wings -- really enjoyed it.
The teams again appeared headed for sudden death, but Mike Gartner scored with 1:23 remaining to put Washington in front and Doug Jarvis' empty-netter with 45 seconds left wrapped up a 4-2 decision.
It was not a completely happy ending because Jarvis, after he fired the puck, was knocked unconscious by an elbow to the jaw, thrown by Detroit's Randy Ladouceur. Although Jarvis was carried off the ice on a stretcher and needed 11 stitches in the back of his head, where it struck the ice, he was sitting up after the game and it seemed possible that his 761-game iron man streak could continue Wednesday night in St. Louis. Jarvis has not missed a game since he entered the NHL in 1975.
The victory kept Washington in a first-place Patrick Division tie with Philadelphia and gave the Capitals 26 points on the road, top figure in the NHL.
"We've got to win the close games like this," said Stevens, who scored his first goal of the night as a defenseman and produced the tying score as a power play left wing. "The last couple of years we haven't been patient in close games and we've lost some, but tonight we were patient and we finally got the chance to win it."
That chance came after Dave Christian knocked the puck over the Detroit blueline. The Red Wings' Brad Park seemed in position to play it, but Bob Carpenter swept past and made a perfect feed to Gartner. He cut behind the defense and shot, then lifted his own rebound over falling goalie Corrado Micalef. It was Gartner's 25th goal of the season.
"Bobby put a move on the two defensemen and got the puck to me," Gartner said. "One defenseman was falling and it left me a clear path. He made the initial save, but I got the rebound over him. I didn't have much on it, but it was enough."
When Detroit pulled Micalef for a sixth skater, Jarvis took a pass from Gaetan Duchesne and sent a 90-foot shot into the net for his eighth goal. But he was unprepared for the assault by Ladouceur, who came across with his left leg in the air and his left arm in Jarvis' face.
"I hope he's not hurt," Ladouceur said. "He was in an awkward position, in the motion of shooting the puck. I thought it was a clean check -- he got hurt when his head hit the ice."
Referee Ron Fournier agreed and did not assess a penalty to Ladouceur, but the television replay clearly showed the defenseman throwing the elbow.
The Capitals were in trouble early, as John Ogrodnick put Detroit's first shot behind Pat Riggin at 1:18, for his 27th goal. Before the first period ended, Lane Lambert drilled one through Riggin and Washington was down, 2-0.
"We put ourselves in a big hole," said Coach Bryan Murray. "If they could finish, we might have been out of it early. But Pat made some big saves and they missed the net on a few others.
"In the first period, they had three 2-on-1s, four 3-on-2s and we had 12 giveaways. I wasn't very happy with the play of a few people and I told them so in the dressing room. I had to double-shift a few people the last two periods, but we built up the tempo and they couldn't match it."
Stevens, skating as a defenseman, scored at 4:54 of the second period to close the gap. He picked off an errant pass inside the Detroit blueline, moved in unopposed and fired the puck just as Detroit's Tiger Williams skated in front of Micalef to provide an unintended screen.
The Capitals got a break late in the second period. After Detroit's Dave Silk tripped Carpenter, the Wings' Reed Larson whacked Bengt Gustafsson in the head with his stick and joined Silk in the penalty box.
That gave Washington a two-man advantage for a potential 41 seconds at the start of the third period. It took only 14 seconds for Stevens to tie the game.
First Stevens carried the puck across the Detroit blueline and kept it in the zone despite pressure from two of the three Red Wings. After the puck was banged from player to player, it came to Stevens at the left hash mark and he lined it into the upper right corner. It was his ninth goal of the season, seventh as a wing.
"It was great to get one at each position," Stevens said. "But after I got the second one, I remembered my last two-goal game. That was 2-2 against Detroit, too, and Ogrodnick beat us in overtime.
"It's not much fun to score two goals and lose, but this time we won and it's a great feeling."
Detroit did not put a shot on goal in the third period until 9:16, but the first one almost untied things. Riggin came out to stop a testing attempt by Steve Yzerman, who had maneuvered past the defense. Not long after, Washington was forced to kill a hooking penalty against Craig Laughlin, the only foul Fournier chose to call in the final 20 minutes.
"They had some chances in the third period," Stevens said. "When it's a close game, you've got to be lucky to score one, and tonight we had the luck."
The Red Wings, winless in their last six games, have been visited by more frustration than luck, as Ladouceur demonstrated.