The puck stopped bouncing for the Washington Capitals last night. The ice was so bad at Capital Centre that it was fortunate when it bounced at all. Accordingly, a 2-2 tie with the Buffalo Sabres was a most equitable result.
With a five-minute overtime period, the NHL game dragged well past three hours. The start of the third period was delayed while the resurfaced ice was given a chance to set. Then, with 3:16 remaining in regulation time, many of the 12,765 fans headed home while officials used ice shavings and carbon dioxide to fill a big hole in front of the Capitals' bench.
"The ice was very wet and it was breaking away," said Washington Coach Bryan Murray. "There wasn't very much ice there. It sort of surprised us. And when two players came together near our bench, it dug a trench to the concrete."
Despite the obvious problems navigating on the uneven surface, the teams waged a tense struggle. But where the Capitals had used their speed to create multiple breakaways during Friday's 4-1 victory at Buffalo, this time there were relatively few good scoring chances.
Mike Foligno's deflection of a drive by Lindy Ruff put the Sabres ahead on their first shot of the game. After Greg Adams and Larry Murphy scored on second-period Washington power plays, Buffalo's Mike Ramsey finalized the score with a short-side shot from the left wing circle.
Each team had a chance to win late in regulation time. With two minutes remaining, Hannu Virta fired a low shot from the slot and Washington goalie Pat Riggin made a superb kick save. With 17 seconds left, Bob Carpenter beat Buffalo goalie Tom Barrasso with a long drive that struck the post at Barrasso's right and caromed away.
"I had him, but it just wasn't my night," said Carpenter, who was dumped into the net by Ramsey on an earlier breakaway and wound up with bruised buttocks.
Each team was assessed a minor penalty during the five-minute overtime and each team put one shot on goal. The Sabres had the best chance, as Riggin stopped Dave Andreychuk's sizzler from the right wing circle. But the Capitals -- 2-0-1 after an 0-3 season start -- succeeded in extending their overtime unbeaten string to 15 games.
A Washington goal was disallowed in the first period, when Kevin Hatcher sent the puck in after the net had been dislodged, apparently the third time Barrasso had knocked it loose. The crowd expressed its displeasure when the replay indicated it might have been intentional.
The ensuing faceoff was held outside the Buffalo zone, because referee Ron Hoggarth insisted Washington's Mike Gartner had been responsible for the loose cage. "I got pushed into Barrasso," Gartner said. "I didn't knock it off. I couldn't, because he was between me and the post. The replay showed pretty clearly what happened."
Like the game Friday, this one was highly physical and the Capitals came out with their share of bruises. Damage that bears watching concerns Doug Jarvis, who left with a groin pull in the third period.
"It's a day-to-day thing and I'll just have to see how it is tomorrow," said Jarvis, who has played in 806 consecutive games. "I think I did it in the second period and I thought maybe I could play the third, but I realized it was foolish and I might hurt it more."
With Jarvis out, defenseman Rod Langway handled the key faceoffs in the Washington end when the Capitals were short-handed, holding his own in four draws. Just before Jarvis left, Langway was struck in the left eye by a stick, but after quick treatment he was back on the ice.
The goals by Adams and Murphy were especially savored because of the timing. Adams had just left the penalty box after serving an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty -- "I mouthed off to the referee" -- when he moved into open ice in the slot and converted Craig Laughlin's fine pass.
Murphy, booed a few minutes earlier when he appeared on Telscreen in a recorded promotional message, unloaded a drive from the right point that sailed over Barrasso's left shoulder and no doubt won him a few friends among the paying customers.
The Capitals have three straight road games coming up and, after fighting the ice here, none is complaining.
"It seems hotter in here than last year and the ice was terrible," said defenseman Scott Stevens. "It's hot compared to other rinks, you sweat more and you lose more fluid. It's cooler in other rinks and it makes it easier to play."