When Willy Lindstrom scored after just 28 seconds tonight, he provided the Pittsburgh Penguins with a lead over the Washington Capitals for the first time in the last 10 meetings between the teams.
The next 59 1/2 minutes were more predictable. Craig Laughlin scored twice, Peter Andersson got a goal and Al Jensen was flawless in the net as Washington ground out a 3-1 victory.
The Capitals' second win over the Penguins in two nights extended their unbeaten streak to five games. They have not lost to Pittsburgh in 16 games over 25 months.
"I'm very, very happy with that kind of performance," said Washington Coach Bryan Murray. "To win, 3-1, in the other guys' building and shut the door like that is the kind of game we want to play."
It was not the kind of game the Civic Arena crowd of 7,521 wanted to see, but the boos that resounded through the building during the scoreless third period were music to the Capitals' ears.
"Once we get ahead, it's pretty hard to come back on us," Laughlin said. "I'm sure it makes it worse when the crowd is booing like that. When we get up on them, it seems to deflate them, but it gives us confidence. I don't think they enjoy playing our tough checking style.
"The fans may not like it, either -- I know they were yelling 'boring' last night at the Centre, too. But that has to be our style. We're not going to win anything trying to skate circles around people. We're not the Edmonton Oilers."
Lindstrom's goal was a shocker to the Capitals, the fourth time in the last 11 goals the opposition has scored in the first minute. Jensen made the initial save on Dave Hannan, but had no chance when the rebound went directly onto Lindstrom's stick.
"It was just one of those things," Murray said. "We were looking to do something offensively and it kind of backfired. They made a good play and scored.
"But after that we played well. There was some awfully good checking. We played the kind of game we wanted to come up with, not giving them much. We changed our forechecking patterns from last night and created a lot more turnovers."
One of those turnovers produced the tying goal, as Greg Adams knocked Penguins rookie Craig Simpson off the puck in the Pittsburgh end and Laughlin quickly put it in the net at 6:22 of the first period.
"They coughed up the puck and Addie got it to me," Laughlin said. "I just shot it. Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don't. This was my night."
An interference penalty to Pittsburgh's John Chabot gave Andersson the chance to score his second game-winning goal in a week.
The Penguins' penalty-killers swarmed over Mike Gartner at the right point, but instead of clearing the puck they knocked it toward Andersson on the left side. Unchallenged, he skated several strides ahead and sent a shot off the stick of goalie Roberto Romano into the net. Bengt Gustafsson got an assist and has at least one point in the last 12 games he has played.
"They wanted to make more pressure on Mike, because he usually takes the shot," Andersson said. "It was the same thing last night. They leave me open on the left side and I'm able to get a good shot."
Andersson's goal came at 11:23 of the first period and there was only one more score the rest of the night. That was produced by Laughlin on a power play late in the second period. Laughlin took Andersson's pass from the left point and banged the puck off Romano's pads.
The goal gave Washington 15 in 40 power-play chances over the last eight games. During the same stretch, the Capitals' penalty-killers have permitted only six goals in 43 opportunities.
Although Washington was outshot, 8-2, in the third period and did not test Romano until only 1:50 remained, the Penguins had few good chances.
"That's the kind of thing that gives the coaching staff a lot of satisfaction, because we've talked about it so much," Murray said. "We haven't been doing that. We seem to go into the third period and give up some quality chances. But tonight we didn't give up many chances and people were coming back all the time."
The Capitals played without center Alan Haworth, who aggravated a pulled groin muscle in Washington's 4-3 victory Tuesday and was left at home with the recuperating Scott Stevens.
Bob Gould, who had not played center since he was 16, moved between Adams and Laughlin and keyed an outstanding two-way effort by the line that with Haworth had been such a potent offensive force over the past month.