Going into the game on October 17, 1974, the Chicago Blackhawks were one of the NHL’s powerhouse teams. They had won the Stanley Cup just two years before and had earned 105 points the previous season which was the third best in the team’s history. Note: in those days, the regular season was 78 games, as opposed to the current 82.
Chicago had just finished playing the Boston Bruins at home on October 16 and had shut them out 4-0. Immediately after the game, they flew to Washington, D.C. and arrived there at 4:00 a.m. Chicago Head Coach, Billy Reay, figuring the Blackhawks could handle the expansion Capitals, even despite the team being sleep-deprived, opted to start their diminutive backup goaltender, Mike Veisor, instead of their star netminder, Tony Esposito. Going into their contest with the Capitals, the Blackhawks were 1-2 for the season so far while the brand new expansion Caps were 0-2-1. Mike Vogel’s excellent account of the first win can be found here.
The game was scoreless until 13:04 of the first period. Denis Dupere of the Capitals broke the shutout. He was trying to make a centering pass from behind the goal line, but the puck bounced off Veisor’s skate and into the net to give the Capitals the initial lead. But about three minutes later, Jim Pappin tied the game for the Blackhawks. At the end of the period, the score was still 1-1. Chicago lead in shots on goal, 12-8.
About a minute into the second period, Chicago took the lead on a power play goal by Germain Gagnon. About halfway through the second period, Dupere evened up the score with his second goal of the game, bouncing it off Blackhawks’ defenseman Doug Jarrett.
At 11:37 into the period, the Caps took the lead when Ron Anderson scored his second goal of the season. He got assists from Bill Lesuk and Tommy Williams, who were both former Boston Bruins. Just over three minutes later, at 14:41 to be exact, Dennis Hull tied the game for the Blackhawks, on their second power play goal of the game. At the end of the second period, the score was still tied at 3-3. Washington had outshot Chicago in that period, 7-6.
At 8:46 into the third period, Jack Egers scored the go-ahead goal for the Caps, taking a pass from defenseman Greg Joly, gliding past a pair of Chicago defenders into the offensive zone, and then taking a shot that beat goalie Veisor. Yvon Labre was credited with his second assist of the game on that goal. The Caps were now ahead 4-3. Chicago had many chances after that but Caps’ goalie, Ron Low, was able to stop all of them. The final score remained 4-3 in favor of the Capitals who had won for the first time in franchise history. Chicago had outshot Washington 18-10 during the final period and 36-25 overall. 9,471 fans were in attendance for the Caps first franchise win ever.
The Blackhawks were upset with themselves for not taking the hard-working Caps more seriously. Defenseman Bill White made note of the two Dupere had scored from deflections.
“They have everything to gain and nothing to lose,” he said of the Capitals. “They’ve got a lot of spirit. I thought it was a good game on both sides. We don’t usually score two goals for the other team, you know.”
The Blackhawks Head Coach, Billy Reay, remarked, “Those guys beat us. They deserved it.”
The Blackhawks did not offer excuses for their extremely late arrival into Washington, D.C. Stan Mikita stated, “Our problem was letting ourselves get complacent against this new team after a big win. As the game progressed, we should have woken up.”
In the Capitals locker room, goalie Ron Low spoke to the press after the win. “What did Chicago have? Nothing that we didn’t have? We were lucky a couple of times, but they were lucky a couple of times. We’re going to open some eyes in the league.”
By Diane Doyle
NHL.Com Story of Capitals First Win
Microfiche images of Washington Post Game Story