There were no reservations, no hesitation for Bob Carpenter as he faced the ultimate pressure in his sport Sunday night, skating in on a penalty shot with the game on the line. And 24 hours later, there were no regrets except the obvious after he failed to score.
Carpenter actually had to argue with referee Andy Van Hellemond to affirm his right to take the shot on which he was thwarted by Bill Smith with the Washington Capitals trailing the New York Islanders by a goal and 30 seconds remaining.
According to the NHL rulebook, a player on the ice at the time of the violation must take a penalty shot awarded because of a deliberately displaced net. Although Coach Bryan Murray designated Carpenter, the official scorer's list did not show him among the eligibles.
"They took a look at the video and came up with five guys," Carpenter explained yesterday, after declining immediate postgame comment. "What they overlooked was that we'd pulled the goalie. There was one guy missing and it was me. I knew I'd been out there when (Paul) Boutilier threw it off and I argued until they said it was okay for me to shoot.
"I wanted to take it. Bryan put enough faith in me to pick me and I felt it was time for something to happen. I felt I could do it."
What foiled Carpenter, as much as Smith's stand-pat move in the net that saw him make the save with his right arm, was the condition of the ice. After 19 1/2 minutes of skating, it was full of ridges and dips.
"There's more pressure on the shooter at the end of a period, because the ice is so bad," Carpenter said. "With good ice, you have at least a 50-50 chance but at the end of a period the odds are 75-25 for the goalie.
"He knows you have to take a shot. You can't try a move, because with the ice chopped up the puck may roll off your stick and you won't get a shot.
"You want to make sure you hit the net. You want it high enough to get on the net, but you want to be sure you don't go over. I guess I wanted to be sure I hit the net, rather than try to pick the corner. Billy Smith went back into the net. As he went down, I dropped my shoulder and went high, but I wasn't high enough."
Although this was Carpenter's first NHL penalty shot, he is the club's acknowledged leader in one-on-one play during practices, when his specialty is snapping the puck under the crossbar.
"That was the first in the NHL, but I've taken a lot of them before," Carpenter said. "I only missed one, an exhibition in high school playing against a college team when the puck rolled off my stick."
It is normal procedure for the shooter to take his time picking up the puck, but Carpenter did not hesitate once the problem of his eligibility had been sorted out.
"Andy came to me and told me there'd been enough of a squabble already and 'When I blow the whistle, you come,' " Carpenter said. "I didn't want to forfeit the shot in any way, so I went right in there. I was confident I could make it, but it didn't work out."
Although Carpenter was downcast after the game, his teammates quickly cheered him up. Several said they could not imagine more demanding circumstances for a professional athlete, unless the incident had occurred in the deciding game of a series.
"That's tough," said Doug Jarvis, whose four Stanley Cup rings testify to a lot of tough spots. "I can't think of anything tougher than going one on one with the game on the line."
"I'd have taken it if they'd told me to, but I don't think anybody would want to take a penalty shot in that situation," said Mike Gartner, the last Capital to take -- and make -- a penalty shot five years earlier.
On the only other penalty shot involving the Capitals this year, Montreal's Mats Naslund lost control of the puck without ever launching a shot at Pat Riggin -- and that was in a regular-season game.