For 30 minutes tonight, the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins were playing the equivalent of a half-court basketball game. The Capitals seemed to be lacking visas to leave their own end.
Goaltender Al Jensen kept Washington in the game, however, and when the rest of the team found its skating legs, goals by Larry Murphy and Craig Laughlin enabled Washington to escape with a 2-2 overtime tie.
Rookie Dave Pasin scored both goals for Boston, the first after only 35 seconds, as all four came in power-play situations.
This was the first blemish on the Bruins' home record. They had won their first six here and remain the only NHL team that has not lost on home ice.
"They played the usual Boston Bruins game, putting a lot of pressure on us in our end," Murphy said. "We got ourselves in a hole with that early goal and I think it's a credit to us that we were able to come back and tie it up."
Kevin Hatcher was in the box for a cross checking penalty called after 24 seconds, when Pasin deflected Mike O'Connell's drive to stir the crowd of 13,962 to early uproar.
There were many more scoring chances before Murphy tied it at 15:24 of the second period. Bruins rookie Randy Burridge could have had five goals in his NHL debut after being called up from Peterborough, Ontario on Friday, but he flubbed three close-in setups and Jensen foiled him with two sensational stops.
Jensen overcame a couple of mishaps to finish with 27 saves as Washington was outshot for the third straight game, this time 29-20. He was struck in the throat by a Gord Kluzak shot midway through the second period. A minute later, he was run over by teammate Dwight Schofield and Boston's Nevin Markwart while he was playing the puck along the rear boards.
Before that incident was over, Schofield used Markwart as a punching bag and Boston's Barry Pederson charged in.
Markwart was assessed two minutes for charging and Schofield five for fighting. Pederson somehow escaped the third-man game misconduct.
With the teams skating four a side, Kluzak tripped Mike Gartner. Washington used its four-on-three advantage to tie the game, Murphy's shot from just inside the blueline striking O'Connell in the ankle and skipping past Boston goalie Doug Keans.
While Schofield was serving his extra three minutes, Boston regained the lead. Bengt Gustafsson, whose check on O'Connell was the keystone of Murphy's goal, found the scales balanced when he lost the puck to Pederson. Pasin took Pederson's pass and fired the puck over Jensen's left shoulder.
The turning point in the game came early in the third period, on another Boston power play. O'Connell fired a shot that skidded through Jensen, struck the back of Rod Langway's leg in the crease and halted so that Jensen could turn and cover the puck.
"I was really fortunate on that one; I thought it was in," Jensen said.
"I was looking for the other guy to come across and I felt something in the back of my leg, but I didn't know it was the puck until I saw Al reach around and grab it," Langway said.
Jensen made two more superb saves, on Pasin and Ray Bourque, to maintain the one-goal differential before Boston's Ken Linseman went off for hooking Gustafsson.
On the power play, Murphy took Gustafsson's pass in the same place as the time before and on this occasion the puck struck Laughlin in the hip and flipped past Keans.
"Justice prevailed that time," Laughlin said. "I stopped two before that on shots that should have gone in the net. Mike Gartner hit me dead on in the leg and Kevin Hatcher hit me in the stomach."
Of his almost-identical scoring drives, Murphy said, "When we play one guy up high like that, if the shot's there, you take it. Gus normally sets you up perfectly. You have to be able to shoot as the puck comes. If the pass is too hard, you're forced into stopping it and you lose the chance."
The Bruins, who had only 19 players -- one short of the limit -- in uniform because of injuries, came storming back in the last few minutes of regulation. Jensen stuck his right leg far out to foil Keith Crowder with 2:10 left and he returned to the net, after failing to clear the puck off the side glass, in time to stop Steve Kasper with 45 seconds left.
"Al played very well for us again," said Coach Bryan Murray. "One was a tip and the other flew over his shoulder. You can't fault him for those. He had a big weekend."
Despite 125 strenuous minutes in the net in about 26 hours, Jensen said he was not tired.
"I don't feel bad," Jensen said. "I just try to concentrate as much as I can. I played 60 games in Adirondack one year, where I used to play three games in three nights, and maybe that was good conditioning. Hopefully, I won't get tired."