Before he became a star, Alan Haworth looked like one. He does not always act that way. On the ice, his helmet frequently flies one way and a glove another, while the puck scurries off by itself at yet a third angle.

"He appears not to know which way he's going next," Dave Christian said. "That's Howie. And if he doesn't know which way he's going, how can the other teams?"

Nobody with the Capitals much knows how he has managed such a feat, but a goal against Vancouver Friday night puts him in the National Hockey League record book.

There is lots of room near the bottom of page 110, under the category: "Longest Consecutive Goal-Scoring Streak." Haworth has nine; one more ties him with Bobby Hull, Mike Bossy (twice), Andy Bathgate and John Anderson.

Those not as enthralled with hockey as some of us may have forgotten that Harry (Punch) Broadbent holds the record, at 16 games. That was pre-1943, or before the red line, of course, which means that Charlie Simmer's streak of 13 games also is a worthy target.

Although it is a Capitals record, scoring in nine straight games might not seem the sort thing that would cause Haworth to be mentioned with the legends of his sport.

But only 12 men in NHL history have scored in 10 straight games. One of them is an Edmonton Oiler, though not Wayne Gretzky. The Great One has not yet even scaled Haworth's heights, his eight last season being a personal best.

"The key is getting the chances to score," Haworth's line buddy, Craig Laughlin, said. "The times you have a very good chance to score are few and far between.

"In baseball, for instance, all the great hitters have four or five chances a game. A great hockey player might get three very decent chances; a good one might get two; an average one might get one."

The very decent chance that Haworth converted into the goal that lifted him past Mike Gartner among Capitals streak shooters came early against the Oilers.

Slightly more than two minutes into the 5-2 Washington victory Tuesday night, Haworth punched the puck past the very good Andy Moog and pricked the pressure that builds during these sorts of runs.

"What this does," he admitted, "is get me a little more nervous for the next game."

Only once during this binge has Haworth not scored before the third period. And there still were 8 1/2 minutes left when he punched the puck in against Pittsburgh.

A couple of the goals have been lucky. Such as the one against Chicago that he batted in; and the one against the Islanders that bounced off the goalie's stick and directly onto his for a cinch rebound.

"I'm gonna pass to him 'til I'm blue in the hands," Laughlin said. "If he gets 50 goals, that means I'll get 50 assists."

That also would be remarkable, considering that Haworth had only 47 goals his last two seasons in Washington. Still . . .

Nobody expected a whole lot either from Haworth or the third line he now centers. He couldn't push a puck into the Potomac until Coach Bryan Murray switched him from wing to center Oct. 25.

Murray's move suggests this: if necessity is the mother of invention, desperation must be the sweet sister of inspiration.

Scoreless the first seven games, Haworth has 11 goals in the last 10, including three game-winners. He also has seven assists during that streak.

His good fortune has gone beyond the ice. Over the weekend, he announced that he and Judy Jensen will be married Christmas Eve.

That probably has sent dozens of young women into a sad swoon. Handsome as they come in sport, Haworth has drawn signs of affection in his former NHL home, Buffalo.

"Welcome back, Sweetie," one banner read. "We miss you," said another.

Haworth and Laughlin sometimes have missed each other on the same Washington line the last three-plus years, although never for long.

"We've each played both wings, opposite each other, at times," Laughlin said. "Usually with a different center. (Bobby) Carpenter one year; somebody else the next and somebody else the next.

"Right now, we're still together. Only he's the center. We know before each season we're gonna end up together. It's just a matter of who the third guy is gonna be."

Greg Adams is the third member of the suddenly celebrated line that still calls itself "The Plumbers" in honor of blue-collar work habits.

That Haworth is not surrounded by exceptional players, as Simmer was with Los Angeles when he set the modern record six years ago, makes his run all the more surprising.

"We do make him look good," Laughlin says, joking. He feigns disappointment, then adds: "We sorta get upset (during star-of-the-game introductions) that they don't bring us out as a unit."

Genes might be a slight factor in Haworth's unexpected brilliance at center. His father, Gord, was quite a good center back in the Western Hockey League.

Whatever, Haworth still leads a quiet social life and tries to avoid the inevitable shutout as long as possible.

"Fifty percent (of his recent success) is playing center," he said. "Fifty percent is more ice time. Just having the chances."

He meant having the chances for a chance at glory. Even Gretzky is harmless on the wrong side of the boards.