The Washington Capitals scored two goals in the first 29 seconds tonight and stayed in front to the finish of a 4-2 NHL victory over the Chicago Black Hawks.
Goaltender Al Jensen stopped 37 shots and received some help from both his defense and fate as Chicago recorded the highest shot total against the Capitals in more than a year.
"Al really played strong," said Coach Bryan Murray. "They mis-shot a few, but Al made some excellent stops at key times."
It was a strange game in some ways. Washington built a 4-1 lead in the first 14 minutes against an old nemesis, goaltender Bob Sauve. This was only their second victory over Sauve in 14 decisions, the other coming on a technicality eight years ago, when he yielded the eventual game-winning goal in a relief role for Buffalo.
Then the Capitals went into a shell in the second period, when they were outshot, 10-2. They carried the play somewhat better in the third period, although Chicago tested Jensen 16 times.
Gaetan Duchesne and Mark Taylor scored on the Capitals' first two shots.
The goals came only six seconds apart and were the fastest in the team's history, erasing the eight-second differential established by Jean Lemieux and Nelson Pyatt against Detroit in 1976.
Duchesne converted Bob Gould's pass from behind the Chicago net at the 23-second mark, as the Hawks apparently relaxed when referee Bob Myers signaled a delayed penalty against Chicago's Doug Wilson for interference against Bob Carpenter.
"I didn't see Myers put his hand up, but I was by myself in front of the net, just me and Carpy with no defensemen around," Duchesne said. "They must have thought the play was over to leave us that open."
On the ensuing faceoff between Washington's Dave Christian and the Hawks' Bill Gardner, the puck squirted into Chicago ice. Left wing Taylor grabbed it and lined a 40-footer past Sauve.
It was especially satisfying for Taylor, because it marked his first NHL shift of the season. He was recalled from Binghamton Saturday when a bruised back forced Bengt Gustafsson out of action.
"The play just developed off the faceoff," Taylor said. "Both wingers are supposed to force the defensemen and I just jumped up and got the puck. It worked out okay."
Troy Murray scored the first of his two goals on Chicago's second shot of the game at 4:36, but before the period ended Alan Haworth and Greg Adams connected to give Washington a commanding lead.
"It's nice to get ahead here," Bryan Murray said. "It takes the noise out of the crowd and it gives us an excellent chance to win, because we do defend well."
Still, the final result could have been close to the 7-7 shootout in Winnipeg Friday, except that suddenly all the bounces and whistles seemed to be going the goaltenders' way.
Three times Chicago shots slipped through Jensen into the crease, only to have defensemen knock the puck out of danger. Larry Murphy performed the chore twice, Scott Stevens a third time.
On several occasions, the Hawks fired wide with Jensen seemingly at their mercy. Once Steve Larmer did put a rebound past Jensen, but an instant earlier Myers had whistled play dead because the puck grazed a high Chicago stick.
"There were a couple of lucky bounces and the defense really backed me up well tonight," Jensen said. "This should really pick the guys up, because we're .500 on the road (3-3-1) and now we're going home for a while."
There were some anxious moments late in the game, after Troy Murray scored his second goal with 4:43 remaining. That came on an incredibly bad bounce, because the puck struck a board behind the Washington goal and caromed in front. Murray knocked it past Jensen while the goalie was looking the other way, trying to locate the puck.
Washington's Haworth was chased for tripping with 2:27 left and the Hawks really poured it on. Jensen stopped a long drive by Doug Wilson and Al Secord poked the rebound through the goalie, but Murphy whacked it out of the crease.
Savard came close off a faceoff in the left wing circle and the Hawks pulled Sauve for a sixth skater with 57 seconds remaining, but they did not score again.
If the Hawks were perhaps unfortunate in the scoring department, the Capitals could have had a few more, too. Both Gary Sampson and Murphy rattled posts in the second period, with several Capitals vainly arguing that Sampson's shot actually had hit the net behind the right post.
"I got knocked down and I couldn't see it, but it really didn't sound like it hit the pipe and it didn't come off like it had hit it, either," Sampson said.