When it comes to overtime, the Washington Capitals give a little extra. As a result, they have survived 22 games over more than two years without feeling the painful side of regular-season sudden death.
That is perhaps fitting, since the Capitals were one of the clubs that provided key support for the National Hockey League rule change that went into effect in October 1983, creating a five-minute extra period to try to break some of the excess of ties.
In their first eight overtime games, the Capitals struggled to a 1-3-4 record. Since then, they have won seven and tied 15, with the most recent victory here Tuesday against Detroit, 4-3. Incredibly, seven players have scored the overtime goals.
The Capitals' regular-season success at handling overtime pressure spilled over into the playoffs last season, when both their victories against the New York Islanders came in sudden death.
"Three years ago, our philosophy without anything being said was to be content to hold onto a tie," said Mike Gartner, whose goal in the second extra period in the second playoff against the Islanders ended the longest game in Capitals history. "That changed last season, and now when we go into each overtime, we want to win.
"We're not content with a tie, whereas a lot of teams, especially in our building, are content with a tie and play that way. Meanwhile, we're going all out. We play with a lot of confidence in overtime."
Pete Peeters, who faces his old Boston teammates for the first time Thursday night, has tended goal in all five of the Capitals' overtime contests since he put on a Washington uniform Nov. 17.
"Sometimes a team gets on a roll and gets a lot of confidence in a situation like that," Peeters said. "And it can have a psychological effect on the opposition, knowing from the pregame notes that we've had so much success in overtime. Those games are good to win, tough to lose, but they can be exciting, especially beating Edmonton like that."
The Edmonton game on Feb. 8, decided by a Bengt Gustafsson goal, ended the Oilers' unbeaten overtime string at 17 games.
Coach Bryan Murray has favored settling ties since his coaching days in the American League, which used overtime while the NHL repeatedly voted no, after dropping overtime during World War II.
"It can be a little scary if you're on the road playing a top team, but I've always liked it," Murray said. "Certainly, confidence is a big factor and you have an edge any time you can go into overtime and not play not to lose.
"We go to the net fairly aggressively in overtime, maybe because of confidence. On Peter's Andersson winning goal Tuesday, Bobby Gould was behind the net, Greg Adams was in front and Bobby Carpenter was driving to the net.
"You get other teams backing in, afraid to make a mistake. Detroit had covered our points very well during the game, but in the overtime they were backing in and Peter had a lot of room to shoot."
For many years as Washington's general manager, Max McNab opposed the return of overtime, feeling it would hurt a low-level team such as Washington. But after David Poile took over in August 1982, he joined Quebec's Marcel Aubut in pressing for sudden death.
"I thought it was an idea whose time had come in all major sports," Poile said. "It was not fair to the fans and players not to try to resolve some of the many ties we were experiencing.
"It probably should have been done at an earlier time, but the biggest objection to overtime through the years came from Mr. (Clarence) Campbell. He felt that since hockey was a predominantly low-scoring game, a tie on the road was nothing to be embarrassed about.
"Overtime favors the home team and the stronger teams, and it is a negative for the lower teams. Nobody disputes that, but the effect on them has turned out to be not nearly so dramatic as some people predicted."
Besides Washington, Chicago (3-0-8) and Philadelphia (2-0-4) are unbeaten in overtime this season. The poorest records belong to the New York Rangers (0-6-4) and Montreal (1-6-6).
Despite the institution of overtime, 64 of 109 games tied after regulation have ended that way. Perhaps the next logical step is the shootout, which has kept International League fans on their feet this season.
If a game is tied after a five-minute overtime, each team takes five penalty shots, alternating shooters, with the visitors going first. If it is still tied after that, they try again, with different shooters. If it is still tied, it stays that way, a situation that has occurred only once in 27 shootouts.
"It's been pretty successful," said IHL spokesman Mike Meyers. "The fans all stay to the end."
Defenseman Rod Langway skated yesterday and said his bruised thigh was "a little sore." He will play tonight . . . Right wing Craig Laughlin was denied medical permission to skate because of his sprained left ankle . . . Defenseman Scott Stevens felt "light-headed" and was excused from practice . . . Goaltender Al Jensen, cramps, and left wing Jorgen Pettersson, back spasms, left the ice early.