Everybody was fit to be tied tonight after Larry Murphy's goal with 2:05 remaining in regulation time lifted the Washington Capitals to a 6-6 standoff with the Hartford Whalers.
The Capitals, who set a club record with 102 points, are forced to share the Patrick Division lead with Philadelphia, which defeated the New York Rangers, 8-2. The Whalers, in extending their unbeaten streak to seven games, earned a piece of fourth in the Adams Division, along with Buffalo.
Bob Gould scored twice and Steve Leach produced his first NHL goal as Washington built a 5-3 lead after two periods.
Mike McEwen's second of the game and two by Kevin Dineen put Hartford in position to win until Murphy spoiled the party. It may be remembered that Murphy also ruined the pre-all-star festivities when his goal with 1:15 left on Feb. 2 beat Hartford here, 5-4.
Tonight both teams seemed to have trouble deciding whether to be satisfied with one point or disappointed with the inability to take two. Both came close enough to victory to taste it.
Bob Carpenter outdrew former Capital Doug Jarvis to set up Murphy for the rising slap shot that completed the scoring.
But with 45 seconds left in regulation, Alan Haworth set up Murphy for a shot that struck a post. For further aggravation, both Greg Adams and Carpenter sent rebounds over the net.
"Howie put me right in on that one," Murphy said. "I wasn't expecting anything, and he slid it right by the guy coming at him. That would have been something, to do it again. It's disappointing that we lost the lead, but a tie on the road in the circumstances we're in isn't too bad."
Considering how close the Whalers came during the five extra minutes, the Capitals should have been delighted to see their unbeaten overtime streak stretched to 23 games.
Stewart Gavin missed the net on a setup by John Anderson, Washington goalie Al Jensen teamed with Gaetan Duchesne to pry a loose puck from Sylvain Turgeon in the crease, and with a minute left, Jensen got his stick on a point-blank save by Anderson, after Dineen set him up in front.
"It was disappointing, because we needed two points more than they did," Dineen said. "The momentum was definitely in our favor until Murphy scored. But you have to give them credit.
"They played last night, they lost their two top scorers and they still came back. Scott Stevens must have played 45 minutes. It was unreal. Every time I looked up, he was on the ice."
Gould matched an early goal by Ron Francis, then Stevens offset McEwen's first of the night. Stevens was playing at left wing when he converted Dave Christian's pass, but as the Washington defense deteriorated, he was restricted to back-line duty.
"I thought we'd have a tough time scoring three or four goals and here we get ahead 5-3 and can't hold them off," said Coach Bryan Murray. "I tried to get everybody some ice time, because the guys looked tired. Rod [Langway] played with every other defenseman at one time or other. I was just looking for bodies."
Kevin Hatcher gave Washington its first lead on a second-period power play, but Turgeon swooped past Langway to create a 3-3 tie. Then Gould and Leach scored 47 seconds apart to quiet the crowd of 14,266. Incredibly, Hartford had not yielded a goal in the second period of its last six games.
"It was a big loss losing those two guys [Bengt Gustafsson, broken leg, and Mike Gartner, knee surgery], but it presents an opportunity for guys like myself to step up and get an opportunity," Gould said. "If they were playing, I'd be on the fourth line. Stevie Leach got his first goal, Kevin Hatcher got a big goal, Carpy won a big draw. That's the way it has to be now, with everybody contributing."
Leach made an excellent play for his first score in seven games since leaving the University of New Hampshire to turn pro. Lou Franceschetti, who earlier suffered a 10-stitch skate cut in his left thigh, centered the puck, and Leach pried it away from defenseman Dana Murzyn, took a step backward for shooting room and fired it past Mike Liut.
"Louie threw it in front and it got caught in Murzyn's skates," Leach said. "He was confused and I was able to pull the puck from his feet and put it in the open corner. If I just keep improving on defense, the offense will come. But right now I'm concentrating on defense. That's a big difference from college."
The start of the third period brought a big change in the Whalers' intensity. They swarmed into the Washington end and within two minutes, the score was tied. McEwen hit from the left point off a feed from another former Capital, Dean Evason, and Dineen scored on a midair deflection of a puck that popped off defender Greg Smith.
When Stevens overskated the puck at the Washington blueline, Dineen took advantage to convert a two-on-one with Dave Tippett. By then, the fans were in an uproar. Murphy lowered the decibel level.
*Canadiens 4, Penguins 3: In Montreal, Brian Skrudland and Mike McPhee each scored a shorthanded goal to help the Canadiens end a seven-game winless streak.