The Washington Capitals, in need of a talent transfusion after the loss of scoring stars Bengt Gustafsson and Mike Gartner to injuries, summoned left wing Yvon Corriveau from the Toronto Marlboros yesterday.
Corriveau, 19, was Washington's first-round pick in the 1985 entry draft. At 6 feet 2 and 205 pounds, he is capable of providing a lift to a team that needs one.
Corriveau had 54 goals -- 14 on the power play -- and 34 assists in 59 games in the Ontario Hockey League, which generally features closer checking and lower scores than Canada's other two junior leagues.
After making that move, which coincided with the end of the Marlboros' playoff competition, General Manager David Poile went on a shopping trip to Baltimore, where he watched the Binghamton Whalers beat the Skipjacks, 5-1.
Poile brought back the most impressive of the Whalers, center Grant Martin, who has 27 goals and 48 assists in 53 games with Binghamton. This will be the second tour with Washington for Martin, a faceoff specialist who had one assist in seven January games.
The Capitals were given a rare day off yesterday, more because of exhaustion than Easter. Today, they make a second attempt to assume a defensive orientation in the absence of two of their top three scorers.
Emphasis on defense was the game plan Saturday night in Hartford. The 6-6 result is ample demonstration of the lack of success of that approach.
"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. "We were real tentative and we had a lot of tired players.
"We really need a day off. I want everybody to get away from hockey today. The guys were drained emotionally after everything that happened over the weekend.
"We have to get our act back together. We were ragged and we got caught on a lot of two-on-ones. We were trying to score goals and we didn't have to score goals. But there were positive things, too. We went to the net, especially guys like Bob Gould and Gaetan Duchesne, and Bobby Carpenter won a big faceoff to help get us even."
Carpenter outdrew ex-Capital Doug Jarvis in the Hartford end and set up Larry Murphy for the rising slap shot that finalized the score with 2:05 left in regulation. Gould scored two goals, both on assists from Duchesne, in helping Washington build the 5-3 advantage after two periods.
"We haven't had an opportunity to adjust to all the lineup changes," Murphy said. "And the ice was real bad the last two nights. The puck was bouncing kind of crazy, a lot worse than normal. It was hot and we were playing two nights in a row, so we ought to be happy with a tie, but I can't help feeling disappointed."
That was in part because Murphy rapped a potential game-winner off a post with 45 seconds left in regulation.
"Both teams were tired, but we should be able to play defense and never let them back in it like that," Gould said. "Look at the rest of our games. They'll all be sellouts, in warm buildings, and it's going to take a lot out of the guys. With Gus and Garts out, some guys are getting extra ice time and it will take a toll on them. But we've got to make a push to finish first."
The final week is a difficult one for the Capitals, whose club-record 102 points presently have them in a standoff with Philadelphia. Washington has three home games against teams fighting for a playoff berth -- Pittsburgh Tuesday, Hartford Thursday and the New York Rangers Saturday. Sunday is the regular-season finale at Philadelphia.
Leading up to that showdown, the Flyers host the New York Islanders Tuesday, visit the Rangers Wednesday and play at Pittsburgh Saturday.
To finish first, the Capitals must pick up one more point than the Flyers, because Philadelphia presently has one more victory and that is the first tie-breaking statistic.
The Pittsburgh game presents a challenge in the presence of Mario Lemieux, the NHL's No. 2 scorer with 47 goals and 90 assists. Lemieux has only one goal and four assists in six games against Washington, shut down by the defensive efforts of Gustafsson. Whether anyone else can handle the big center is questionable.
The wild game in Hartford produced a number of interesting sidelights beyond the topsy-turvy nature of the scoring. For one, Washington winger Steve Leach joined an elite group by scoring on his first NHL shot on goal. That feat was tarnished somewhat because it was Leach's seventh game, but it should boost his confidence considerably.
Murray screamed vainly at referee Terry Gregson after a midair deflection by Hartford's Kevin Dineen tied the game at 5-5. In swinging at the puck, Dineen also bloodied Greg Smith's nose.
"John McCauley NHL assistant director of officiating told me that anytime a player cuts somebody with his stick it's a major penalty, regardless of the circumstances," he said. "I would assume if the rule had been enforced in this case, the goal would have been disallowed."
Asked if he seriously expected a referee to make a call against the home team in that spot, Murray smiled and said, "Not really. But it ought to give them something to think about."
Murray gave Hartford Coach Jack Evans something to think about when he took advantage of Evans' tactic of using the Ron Francis-John Anderson-Dineen line, one of the NHL's hottest, only when Carpenter was on the ice.
"I just kept Carpenter off and I could tell Francis and Anderson were steaming," Murray said. "Eventually, when they fell behind, they had to use them and they came up big against us."
Left unsaid was something obvious: Murray would much prefer to match wits with Evans in a playoff series than butt heads with the Islanders' Al Arbour and Philadelphia's Mike Keenan.
The Capitals will put playoff tickets on sale Thursday, after the first period of the return engagement with Hartford.