A change of scene did nothing to slow the Washington Capitals' scoring machine tonight. Bob Carpenter and John Barrett had two goals each to lead a 6-3 rout of the New York Rangers.
The second straight one-sided result lifted the Capitals into a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven NHL Patrick Division final and restored the home-ice advantage they surrendered by losing the opener in overtime.
Except for the instant of that defeat, the Capitals never have trailed during their six playoff games. They jumped to a 4-0 lead in the first 25 minutes tonight and the closest the Rangers came was three goals.
"It's very hard to catch up against a team like that," said Pierre Larouche, who scored twice for the Rangers. "I don't think we played bad, but they just wait for you to make a mistake."
Washington goalie Pete Peeters made some excellent stops when the game was still in doubt and finished with 39 saves as the Rangers had a 42-28 edge in shots.
"You don't have many nights when you get 42 shots and that few goals," said New York Coach Ted Sator. "The pressure wasn't there for any rebouunds."
"There may have been a few people who doubted that Pete Peeters could play against the Rangers, but that performance ought to answer any questions," said Capitals Coach Bryan Murray. "He made some quality saves early that had to discourage them."
Game 4 is scheduled here on Wednesday and the Rangers have to be wondering what they can do to change the pattern.
"This was a very important game for us," Murray said. "If they win, we start second-guessing ourselves as a result of the first game. But we were able to score some goals and use our speed against them and I hope it continues for a couple of more games. The next game now becomes a must game for them, because they certainly can't expect to win two more in our building."
Each team was a man short and the game scoreless when Peeters made the biggest and best save of the series. Reijo Ruotsalainen from the left wing circle made a perfect pass to Mike Ridley, the Rangers' leading scorer, at the right post for what seemed a tap-in. Somehow, Peeters dove to his left and smothered the shot. To add to the difficulty, the only other player in front of the net was Larouche.
"It just happened so quick that instinct took effect," Peeters said. "I just felt the guy was going to make the pass. That could have really got them rolling, I guess."
"There's a pressure goalie, making the big save at the right time," said Mike Gartner, who had a goal and three assists. "We've had that all season."
Buoyed by that save, the Capitals went ahead to stay a few seconds later. A pass by Ruotsalainen caromed off Larouche's skate and went to Scott Stevens, who quickly headmanned the puck to Carpenter for a breakaway. He deked goalie John Vanbiesbrouck and, keeping the puck on his forehand, beat the goalie on the stick side.
Before seven minutes had elapsed, it was 2-0. Vanbiesbrouck tried to clear the puck down the ice and Gartner batted it down at the top of the right wing circle, then fired it past the goalie's glove.
"He did that a couple of times against Philly," Murray said. "We talked about it and we were able to capitalize on it."
Peeters continued to play a sound game in every aspect. Early in the second period, the Rangers swept into the Washington end, but Peeters blocked Jan Erixon's drive with his left skate and several other attempts were wide.
"Pete makes a great save in his skates," Larouche said. "That's just playoff hockey. We have to forget it and get ready for Wednesday. We can't feel sorry for ourselves. They won't feel sorry for us."
The Capitals certainly wasted no time taking advantage of the Rangers' failure to close the gap. Christian sent Jorgen Pettersson down the middle and Vanbiesbrouck forced Pettersson wide, so that he shot at the side of the net. Carpenter retrieved the puck and tried to center it, got it back and stuffed it around the post with the goalie off to the other side.
During a delayed penalty to the Rangers' Willie Huber, Gartner passed to Barrett at the left point and he sent the puck through traffic into the far corner for his first playoff goal.
After Larouche finally put New York on the scoreboard in the third period, Barrett came back 29 seconds later to score his second goal at the finish of a three-on-one with Gartner and Yvon Corriveau.
"I'm not much of a scorer, so it's nice to get a couple like that," Barrett said.
Larouche's first goal came on a power play and Wilf Paiement also hit in an extra-man situation after Corriveau knocked the Washington net loose and was penalized for delay. The Rangers' power play had been none for 12 in the series until the back-to-back scores.
Alan Haworth scored his fourth goal in three games to rebuild the four-goal advantage before Larouche completed the scoring on a setup by Ruotsalainen.
Peeters faced a barrage in the third period -- 18 shots, and debris from the stands that ranged from a quarter to ticker tape. But the reaction of the 17,371 fans was far less marked than during a 7-1 loss to Philadelphia eight days ago.
"The crowd got very quiet tonight," Carpenter said. "I was on the bench at the end of the second period and there was nothing, not even boos. It's good to see that for once."
The Madison Square Garden ice was in terrible shape and there were a half dozen delays while the linesmen obtained chunks of ice to fill huge gaps along the side boards.
"I'd like to make an apology on the condition of the ice," said Sator. "You shouldn't have to play hockey under these conditions."
Several players were injured, none seriously. Washington's Bob Gould was struck in the chest by teammate Larry Murphy's shot in the first period and required brief treatment. Craig Laughlin was banged hard into the boards in the third period and was groggy for a while.
For New York, Ridley went out briefly with a twisted knee after Rod Langway pulled him down and Larry Melnyk departed after he tried to block a shot by Haworth and caught the puck above the right eye. He required eight stitches.
David Jensen was in the Capitals' lineup because Lou Franceschetti stayed in Washington to be with his wife, Diane, reported in labor.