Perhaps the Washington Capitals should have a new motto: Beware of rookie goaltenders from the University of North Dakota.
Jon Casey, a 1984 UND graduate, stopped 41 shots tonight as the Minnesota North Stars beat the Capitals for the first time in more than three years, 5-3.
It was the Capitals' second straight loss. On Thursday, they were shut out by a 1983 UND grad, Darren Jensen of the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Capitals were fortunate that Bob Carpenter climbed out of his Washington sickbed this morning and obtained permission to join the team, after he had been told Friday to stay away and rest with a severe case of the flu.
Carpenter scored two goals for the first time this season and fired 10 of Washington's 44 shots at Casey. The only other Capital to beat the 5-10, 155-pound goalie was Craig Laughlin. He connected on a third-period power play after a pass from another North Dakota product, Dave Christian, deflected off the skate of Minnesota's Curt Giles.
The Capitals, who had scored first in nine straight games before Thursday's loss, never led tonight. Casey blocked nine shots in the first five minutes, including big saves on Carpenter and Bengt Gustafsson, to give his teammates some confidence. Thereafter, they took advantage of Washington mistakes to end an eight-game winless streak against the Capitals.
"It's frustrating," said Washington Coach Bryan Murray. "We had the chances to win. Their goaltender was excellent, but we should have won it anyway. We gave up four goals on dumb plays by our defense. They were gambling and giving the puck away."
A key play came with 68 seconds left in the second period, just as a futile Washington power play was ending. Larry Murphy tried to come out from behind his net and was pulled down by Neal Broten. As Broten also fell, he managed to shove the puck behind him, and with goalie Pete Peeters out of position, Brian Bellows skated in and shoved it into the empty net for a 3-1 Minnesota lead.
Carpenter put an outside fake on defenseman Bob Rouse and beat Casey with a short-side shot to close the gap early in the third period. But Dirk Graham made it 4-2 just 46 seconds later with a sensational rink-length dash. After taking the puck from Casey behind his net, Graham skated all the way, faking Peter Andersson en route, to beat Peeters.
After Laughlin scored his 13th goal, Scott Bjugstad put it away for Minnesota on a most confused play by the Capitals' defense.
As Broten crossed the Washington blueline in the middle of a three-on-two, he was challenged by both defenders, Scott Stevens and Kevin Hatcher. When Broten slipped the puck ahead to Dino Ciccarelli, it was two against Peeters, who was helpless when Ciccarelli fed Bjugstad in front.
Casey boosted his record to 7-3 since his promotion from Springfield of the American Hockey League. Although he was rated behind Jensen when they played college hockey together, he is considered the better prospect by Warren Strelow, the Capitals' goaltender coach. Casey had a remarkable season in Baltimore last year, with 30 victories and a 2.63 goals-against mark.
"It's taken me a while to get here," Casey said. "Darren was a real solid goaltender, so I couldn't expect to play more than him. Then Baltimore had a deal last year that Minnesota wouldn't call me up, so I had to stay there. Maybe it was good for me, because I had a solid year and didn't have to bounce up and down."
The Capitals announced Friday that Carpenter would not play tonight. But after returning to Washington, Carpenter slept for 12 hours and, when he woke up this morning, the chills, stomach pains and lack of energy were a thing of the past. Anybody who thought Carpenter was coming just to keep his 361-game streak alive were persuaded otherwise by his performance.
"This is the best I've felt in a long time," Carpenter said. "Maybe I was overtired, besides having the flu, and the rest was what I needed. I'm sure glad I came."
Center Alan Haworth was less fortunate in his comeback after sitting out two games with a concussion. He was robbed twice by Casey's quick glove and in the last minute he was shaken up by a heavy check from Ed Hospodar.
"He just hit me at the right spot," said Haworth, holding an icepack to the back of his neck. "I guess all my injuries aren't cured yet."