The Washington Capitals, forced to play without injured defenders Rod Langway and Scott Stevens, spotted the Calgary Flames a three-goal lead in the first 10 minutes last night at Capital Centre.
Incredibly, the Capitals battled back to tie the game at 4-4 before Eddy Beers' unassisted goal with 9:35 left lifted the Flames to a 5-4 victory before 14,744.
Larry Murphy, only four days off the Washington injury list himself, scored the two goals, late in the second period and early in the third, that created the NHL game's only deadlock. Greg Adams and Alan Haworth scored the others, with Haworth extending his goal-scoring streak to eight games, tying Mike Gartner's club record.
Richard Kromm scored twice for Calgary, which extended its unbeaten streak to five games. This was the Flames' first win at Capital Centre since March 3, 1981, ending a string of six losses here.
Both teams acknowledged that when the Capitals were able to pull even, they figured to win. Washington outshot the Flames, 33-18 on the night and 8-3 in the third period, but Beers was in the right spot at the right time.
The decisive play developed not long after Bengt Gustafsson had drilled a shot off the right arm of Calgary goalie Reggie Lemelin, the puck striking the post and caroming wide.
Washington continued to press in the Calgary end but a pass from center Doug Jarvis back to defenseman Peter Andersson was deflected and Beers, moving out to cover the point man, was in perfect position to scoop up the loose puck. He beat goalie Pat Riggin with a backhander from the right wing circle.
"Sometimes you win a game you shouldn't," Beers said. "We came out smelling like a rose. The defense(men) they had out there tonight weren't overly quick and when the puck came loose I was able to get to it. I didn't even look. I just threw it in the direction of the net."
Although it was only the second loss in the last eight games for the Capitals, Coach Bryan Murray was unable to hide his disappointment.
"When we give up 18 shots and only three in the last period, we shouldn't lose the hockey game," Murray said. "Rod and Scott are major factors for us and I don't know that we'd have given up five goals with them out there, but our kids responded well.
"I guess it evens out. Tonight we lost one we shouldn't have lost. Wednesday in Pittsburgh, we won one we deserved to lose because Al Jensen played so well in goal."
Charles Bourgeois scored on a breakaway on Calgary's first official shot last night. Then Kromm deflected a drive by Al MacInnis and Riggin allowed a routine shot by Steve Bozek to rebound in front of the net, where it struck the skate of Washington defenseman Yves Beaudoin and caromed over the goal line.
Instead of folding, the Capitals mounted a relentless comeback. Greg Adams began it with a power play deflection of a drive by Andersson. That was matched by Kromm's second goal, his target simplified by the fact that Calgary's Doug Risebrough was lying on Riggin.
But 45 seconds later, Haworth skated from the left wing boards into the slot and hit the net as he was hooked down by Jamie Macoun.
Then Murphy took over. Only four days removed from the injury list that claimed Langway and Stevens, Murphy buried a blueline slap shot for Washington's second power play goal of the game.
After Lemelin made big stops on Kevin Hatcher and Lou Franceschetti early in the third period, Murphy completed an exchange of passes with Gartner by skating into the crease to beat the Calgary goalie.
Although there was every expectation that the Capitals would ride the momentum to victory, something they failed to accomplish, Murphy said, "We have to be realistic. When we come out like we did, falling three goals behind, we don't really deserve to win. We lost that game in the first period."
Two of the Capitals' individual streaks disappeared in the defeat, as Dave Christian was unable to extend his seven-game point and five-game goal runs.
Besides Haworth, Adams and Gustafsson kept streaks going. Both players have at least one point in seven straight games. Adams has an assist in each of the last six.
Haworth actually had a tough night, despite the goal. He came close on several others and took a heavy blindside hit from Risebrough that sent him reeling.
"I missed a couple tonight," Haworth said. "Greg passed me one that I should have had and a guy lifted my stick on one just as I shot. We had to come off a bad start. They got a big lead on us and that kind of thing is tough to overcome."
Stevens, who has a bruised knee, was missing only his sixth game in three-plus seasons here. This was the first time both he and Langway have been absent from a game since they joined the Capitals in 1982.