David Poile, the general manager of the Washington Capitals, is a connoisseur of hockey superstition. He is reluctant to change seats when the Capitals are winning and he plans the team's hotel accommodations for the playoffs on the basis of the results of previous stays.
If he has his way, the Capitals are unlikely to play on Fridays next season. Despite owning the NHL's second-best record, Washington remained zero for Friday when it was fortunate to gain a 3-3 overtime tie last night against Toronto, the league's worst team.
A Capital Centre crowd of 12,279 managed a perfunctory yell when Mike Gartner's 32nd goal tied the score with 8:21 remaining in regulation time. But there was little to cheer about the rest of the night, despite the Capitals' misleading 40-17 margin on the shot clock and Alan Haworth's two goals that gave him a career total of 100.
Although remaining unbeaten through 11 overtime games and increasing its lead to six points over Philadelphia, Washington slipped to an unfathomable 0-5-1 on Friday.
"We're just not playing sharp right now," Coach Bryan Murray said. "Some of the guys are going through the motions. When one line, Doug Jarvis-Craig Laughlin-Alan Haworth, is doing most of the work in the hockey game, there's reason to be upset."
Murray also was upset with the performance of goaltender Bob Mason, who allowed three goals in 10 shots before he was replaced by Pat Riggin at the start of the third period. This was only the second time Mason had started two straight games; on the last occasion, the New York Islanders chased him with three goals in eight shots.
"I was dissatisfied with Bob Mason," Murray said. "He wasn't in the game and he wasn't motivated, like so many other guys. On the third goal, he opens up so far you could have driven a tank between his legs."
At the other end, Toronto's Tim Bernhardt achieved star status because of the Capitals' inability to finish off some beckoning chances.
"The number of times Bernhardt went down, he should have to get a new pair of pads," Murray said. "But we just didn't take advantage."
The Capitals, who wasted a 42-second double power play, were fortunate to be only two goals down after the first period. A quick whistle by referee Kerry Fraser stopped play with the puck free under Mason, an instant before Dan Daoust knocked it into the net.
Toronto had only two extra-man chances in the game and converted both in the first period. First Vaive took Daoust's pass behind the defense and beat Mason on a breakaway, releasing a soft shot between Mason's right skate and the post while the goalie was moving to his left.
Then Mason went behind the net to handle Miroslav Frycer's dump-off pass, only to see the puck take a crazy bounce off the side boards into the crease. Mason dived to knock it up the slot, but he still was on the ice when Gary Leeman knocked it past him.
Washington had been almost 15 minutes without a shot before Haworth mounted the counterattack. He scored his first by circling out of the left-wing corner and utilizing Jarvis' screen.
Then Rod Langway's shot from the left point struck Toronto defender Bill Kitchen, who was wrestling with Laughlin in front of the net. The puck caromed back into the slot and Haworth swooped in to tie the game.
Bernhardt made a great glove save on Laughlin, who averted an icing call and carried the puck in front, before Frycer broke the tie with 3:22 left in the second period.
Frycer picked off a punchless pass by Bengt Gustafsson in center ice, crossed the Washington blueline and circled Timo Blomqvist before putting the puck between Mason's legs.
The Capitals tied it after Gaetan Duchesne pried the puck away from a prolonged four-man pileup along the boards behind the Toronto net, with the crowd loudly demanding a whistle. Duchesne fed Bob Carpenter in the left-wing circle and Gartner netted the rebound after Bernhardt made the initial save.
"(Borje) Salming had the puck and he tried to freeze it," Duchesne said. "I just backed up and the ref said, 'Move it.' Salming moved his feet and I pulled the puck away and passed it to Bobby.
"It wasn't a good game, but one point is better than none."
For Haworth, 100 goals is better than a 9-to-5 job.
"I'm glad I'm still in the league after five years," he said. "Mike Bossy and Wayne Gretzky may look forward to those milestones, but myself I just want to play as long as I can.
"This was a mucker's game. The first period was kind of odd, and everything was going bad. I think we just started playing a bit too late."