The Washington Capitals were trailing, 2-0, the New York Islanders were demonstrating their considerable penalty-killing skills, and the roar at Capital Centre had an unpleasantly insistent tone to it.
The result was the fastest scoring punch ever by a Capital in a playoff game. Larry Murphy's two power play goals came 16 seconds apart and put the Capitals right back into last night's game against the New York Islanders, an eventual 4-3 victory in overtime.
They were Murphy's first goals in a playoff since he joined the Capitals in 1983 from the Los Angeles Kings. Forget jubilation. Shock would be more appropriate.
"I didn't know how to handle it," he said. "I guess it's my lucky day. I had a couple of shots and they went it the net."
When Mike Gartner added his goal two minutes later for a 3-2 lead, it marked the fastest team scoring effort ever by the Capitals in a playoff game, three goals in 2:09.
Murphy had just 13 goals all season. So maybe luck had a little to do with it. But Coach Bryan Murray also took his timeliest timeout.
When the Capitals got a five-on-three advantage with 9:18 remaining in the second period, the spectators were insistent. The Capitals had been miserable on power plays all night. So Murray put his hands into a T and called everybody in. John Tonelli was in the penalty box for slashing and Tomas Jonsson for interference.
"It was a case of settling the guys down," Murphy said. "And the fans were getting a little emotional. A lot of times they like to quarterback from the stands."
Murray was mainly thinking about the Islanders' penchant for penalty killing. The Islanders went short-handed for 17:29, but they stopped eight power plays for the night. With that kind of play, their 2-0 lead looked huge.
"They were ahead, 2-0, and they were taking it to us, especially with the penalty killing," Murray said. "It was a key moment. If we can get one there we have an excellent chance to get back in it. If not, then they can shut the door on us, and the kids were getting a little frustrated. But we end up getting two in 16 seconds and end up winning, maybe because we took it when we did."
The Capitals have heard from the fans all season about their lack of scoring on power plays. Last night was no exception.
"We have to learn that we won't score every power play," Murphy said. "We may stink put the building on one power play, but we have to come back the next time. It probably haunted us in the past, and we let the crowd get on us.
On Murphy's first goal, Bob Carpenter sent the puck to Scott Stevens, who set up Murphy to the left of Islanders goalie Bill Smith.
"I was just trying to get it low and on the net," Murphy said. "I just wanted a rebound. I was kind of surprised it went in, because I really wasn't shooting to score."
The second left him breathless. It came from almost the exact same spot. He had all the time he needed, waiting for Smith to commit himself. He faked, held up, and when Smith made a move, he sent it to the right inside corner.
"The second puck was just lying there at the red line. It gave me the opportunity to really tee it up," he said. "I don't know if he (Smith) had miuch of a chance, because it was just laying there."
Murphy's goals put the Capitals in the shape to endure a dry spell in the third period. In this case, they took some boos. With 10:55 remaining in the game, Patrick Flatley was sent off the ice for a five-minute penalty for high sticking. The Capitals couldn't muster anything. But only for the time being.
"During that five minutes, we just didn't have a succesful power play. But we dealt with it tremendously," Murphy said. "We didn't fold, we just continued to play our game."