A penalty shot, a left hook, a head butt, a can of beer and two third-period goals by Alan Haworth were prominent items tonight as the Washington Capitals defeated the New York Rangers, 4-2, to complete a weekend series sweep and move within three points of first-place Philadelphia in the NHL's Patrick Division.
Peter Sundstrom became the first Ranger in five years to convert a penalty shot when he beat Al Jensen in the first period, after Washington defenseman Larry Murphy had pulled the puck underneath him in the crease.
That score, the Rangers' first against Jensen in seven periods this season and their first against the Capitals in 146 minutes 19 seconds, stood up until Washington's 22nd shot at Rangers goalie John Vanbiesbrouck.
Greg Adams and Scott Stevens ended Vanbiesbrouck's mastery by scoring on successive shots late in the second period. After Adams scored on a power-play shot from the right-wing circle, the crowd of 17,408 cheered the goalie. When Stevens hit from the slot 2 1/2 minutes later, there was a smattering of boos.
"He was making some big saves, but as long as you're getting shots, you don't worry about it," Adams said. "Eventually, you know one will go in."
With 54 seconds left in the second period, the Rangers' George McPhee landed a neat left hook to the jaw of Gaetan Duchesne. So McPhee was watching from the penalty box when Haworth made it 3-1 early in the third period, hitting from the top of the left-wing circle after Stevens kept the puck in at the blueline. From that point, the Rangers fired 17 shots at Jensen.
Brian MacLellan's tap-in, after Reijo Ruotsalainen's shot went through Jensen's pads, pulled the Rangers within 3-2 with 11:50 left.
After Jensen gloved a tough shot by Ron Greschner, a scuffle erupted near the Washington net, with Adams shoving Tomas Sandstrom from behind. Sandstrom reacted by charging into Bob Carpenter, who had boarded him moments before.
Sandstrom, who was wearing a helmet with a visor, butted Carpenter and received a match penalty, which sent him to the dressing room with 5:31 left.
NHL President John Ziegler, sitting behind the Washington goal, was showered with verbal abuse by fans after the incident. When a can of beer landed a few rows away, other fans screamed at Ziegler to provide more security. Ziegler, at least, was given more protection. He was immediately surrounded by police.
Since Carpenter received a minor penalty, the teams played four-a-side for two minutes, and then Washington had a manpower advantage for three minutes.
The Rangers showed a stronger offense short-handed than they had at equal strength during the entire weekend. Don Maloney tripped Stevens, who fell at the Washington blueline, and Ruotsalainen went in on a breakaway. Jensen stopped his shot, and Bob Brooke's rebound struck a defender and went wide.
"He [Maloney] tripped me up," Stevens said. "He picked me and got his stick between my legs. I guess [referee Andy Van Hellemond] wasn't going to call a penalty with us on a power play, but it was pretty scary at that time of the game."
With 12 seconds left, Haworth won a draw from Greschner outside the Washington blueline and sent the puck 115 feet into the unguarded net. Thus, after Friday's 4-0 victory, the Capitals completed their weekend sweep of the Rangers.
"I won the faceoff, and the puck just stopped there," Haworth said. "I wanted to play it safe, but there was a big opening, and the safest play was just to shoot it right at the net."
The penalty shot was the first faced by Jensen since he played for Adirondack in the American Hockey League five years ago. On that occasion, he also was beaten, but a challenge of the shooter's stick wiped out the goal.
Tonight's penalty shot was the first involving the Capitals this season. It was set up when the puck squirted out to McPhee from a scrimmage in the right-wing corner. Murphy blocked McPhee's attempted pass, then pulled the puck under him.
"The guy was coming out from the corner two on one, and I went down to stop him from sliding the puck across," Murphy said. "I tried to hit it back to Al with my glove, but he wasn't there. I didn't want to cover it, so I pulled it between my legs. It was still loose, but he [Van Hellemond] called it anyway."
A player on the ice at the time had to take the shot, and Greschner, the Rangers' captain, initially selected himself, only to be overruled by Coach Ted Sator. If his choice of Sundstrom, a seven-goal scorer, was a surprise, it paid off as Sundstrom raced down the slot and lifted a shot just under the crossbar.
"They first said Greschner, and I've watched him, and I figured a deke," Jensen said. "Then I heard Sundstrom, and I changed my thinking. I guessed deke, but I guessed wrong. I tried to concentrate on pretending that it was just like a shootout in practice, but obviously it wasn't."