Fan Appreciation Day became Mike Gartner Appreciation Day yesterday at Capital Centre.
Gartner scored two goals and became the 43rd player in National Hockey League history to get 50 in a season. He added two assists and, with 102 points, joined Dennis Maruk as the Washington Capitals to reach three figures in that department.
Completing a weekend sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins with a 7-3 victory, the Capitals finished with 101 points, third best in the NHL and the same figure they posted a year ago.
Unlike last season, the Capitals did not claim the best defensive record in the NHL. They gave up 240 goals, three more than Buffalo, which meant the Jennings Trophy passed into the hands of Tom Barrasso and Bob Sauve.
After Washington jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first period of this regular-season finale, the second period provided some material for the history books.
Besides Gartner's 100th point, which came on his 49th goal, and his 50th goal, Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux became the third rookie in NHL history to reach 100 points. Then, in an odd twist, Washington iron man Doug Jarvis made his 800th straight NHL game memorable by being ejected as the third man in a fight.
Pat Riggin earned his first victory in the Washington net since Feb. 28, stopping 23 shots. Brian Ford, at the other end, deserved a Purple Heart after blocking 45, as the Capitals' 52 shots came within one of the club record.
The disappointing crowd of 11,641 had a couple of anxious moments, unrelated to the score, before the final buzzer sounded and fans were permitted on the ice to obtain players' autographs and photographs.
In the third period, Rod Langway was struck in the left jaw by the stick of Pittsburgh's Gary Rissling. He went off slowly, but was back for his next shift.
"It was an accident, but it scared me," Langway said. "My whole jaw went numb and I felt a pain in my right ear. It really rang my bell."
Earlier, rookie Kevin Hatcher's celebration of his first NHL goal was curtailed when a shot by Mike Bullard deflected off Langway's stick and nailed Hatcher on the forehead. He required three stitches above the bridge of his nose.
"It partly hit my helmet, too, or it would have done more damage," Hatcher said. "I was a little dizzy and I sat there for about a minute. I'd been so happy about the goal, but that took the fun out of it."
Nothing could take the smile off Gartner's face, however. His four-point day doubled his point total of the last five games, which had been a frustrating melange of shots banging off posts or sailing wide.
Gartner assisted on Bob Carpenter's 53rd goal to open the scoring. His rebound of a Lou Franceschetti shot made it 4-0 early in the second period and gave him 49 goals and 100 points.
No. 50 came at 14:05 of the second period, as Bengt Gustafsson threaded a pass into the slot, where Gartner was able to tip it over Ford as he crashed into the goalie. The entire Washington team came off the bench to congratulate Gartner, a ceremony that was rewarded with an automatic delay-of-game penalty by referee Terry Gregson.
"I'm very happy the way everything worked out. It's a special thrill for me that it happened on Easter, although it pales in comparison to the holiday we celebrate," Gartner said. "It's probably more a thrill for my mom and dad, because they were here to see it, and for my wife, who's been trying to put a little extra pressure on me the last few days.
"I owe a lot to my teammates. They've been trying to set me up for five games. They've been passing up empty-net shots to feed me."
Two of the Capitals' goals were scored short-handed, the first time they'd had two in one game since 1975.
Hatcher's initial NHL score, which made it 2-0, came with Franceschetti off for holding. Bob Gould made a big play down the right wing, fighting off Bullard's half-hearted check and feeding Hatcher in the slot.
The second short-handed score was produced by Gustafsson, officially three seconds after the brawl that resulted in Jarvis' ejection and left Washington a man down for two minutes.
Dave Christian faced off with Lemieux in center ice and the puck squirted to Gustafsson. He raced down the left wing and fired the puck over Ford's left shoulder.
When the elapsed time was pointed out to Gustafsson, he laughed and said, "I know I'm fast, but I don't think I'm that fast."
The brawl was ignited when Gould slashed Lemieux. Pittsburgh's Wally Weir went after Gould and Stevens immediately jumped on Weir.
While the linesmen were escorting Weir and Stevens to the penalty box, Penguin Dave Hannan challenged Gould and the two exchanged a number of punches. Gould was taking a pounding, with no official available to help him, when Jarvis pulled Hannan off.
Jarvis, acknowledging that he deserved the game misconduct according to the rules, could not recall whether he had been ejected before.
Lemieux scored following an exchange of passes with Wayne Babych at 16:08 of the second period. Only Peter Stastny (109) and Dale Hawerchuk (103) previously totaled 100 points as rookies.
Warren Young, the Penguins' other outstanding rookie, netted his 40th goal on only 130 shots, giving him 30.8 percent accuracy, second best in NHL history behind Charlie Simmer's 32.7 of 1980-81.
The other Washington goals were produced by Larry Murphy, who matched his breakaway score in the Capitals' 7-4 victory Saturday, and Stevens, whose third-period power play conversion gave him 21, matching Robert Picard's club record for a defenseman.
The Capitals, unbeaten in their last 13 games against Pittsburgh, finished with 322 goals, a club record. Other seasonal marks were established by 27 home victories, 56 points at home, Riggin's 57 appearances, Gartner's 331 shots and the total attendance of 560,309.