Just minutes before the NHL Trade Deadline of March 7, 1989, the Washington Capitals made a blockbuster trade with the Minnesota North Stars. In exchange for the then-franchise leader in Goals Scored, Mike Gartner, and offensive defenseman Larry Murphy, (a Second Team All-Star the previous season), the Capitals acquired forward Dino Ciccarelli and defenseman Bob Rouse. The trade was intended to alter the character of the team and change their luck in the upcoming Stanley Cup Playoffs, in which they had never advanced past the second round. The Caps lost the first game after that trade but then won three in a row. In this latest Retro Recap, Diane Doyle takes a look back at a game just 11 days following the trade
At that time, the Capitals had just finished a three-game homestand in which they had won all three games but were starting a two-game road trip that would begin in Hartford, Connecticut against the Whalers, the second game of a back-to-back set. The Capitals held a 36-26-10 record and were first place in the Patrick Division, the third-best record overall in the NHL. The Whalers, meanwhile, held a record of 32-34-5.
Ciccarelli wasted no time in getting the ball rolling against Hartford, scoring just 1:29 into the first period, escaping by defenseman Sylvain Cote after receiving a long pass from Scott Stevens. Bengt Gustafsson got the other assist. The Capitals would hold the 1-0 lead into the first intermission. The period also featured a fight between the Capitals’ Stephen Leach Tom Martin of Hartford, as well as three minor penalties (two by Washington and the other by Hartford).
Like the first frame, the second would see action early on, as the Capitals’ Kevin Hatcher and Dean Evason of Hartford started a scrum and were sent to the penalty box with matching roughing penalties, setting up a 4-on-4 that caused no lasting damage. At 5:21, Ciccarelli deflected a shot from defenseman Calle Johansson from the right wing boards for the team’s second goal, with Dale Hunter getting the secondary assist. Ciccarelli played on a line with Hunter and Geoff Courtnall for this particular shift, although typically played with Gustafsson and Dave Christian since joining the Caps. Ciccarelli would score his and the Capitals’ third goal of the game at the 16:37 mark, after scoring on a pass from Christian, with the puck striking Minnesota goalie Mike Liut’s pad and deflecting into the net. The goal, Ciccarelli’s 38th of the season, gave the Capitals a 3-0 lead.
The Caps added another goal in the period when Mike Ridley scored on a power play at 17:49 with Cote in the penalty box for holding, with Ciccarelli and Hatcher credited with assists on the play. The remainder of the period featured penalties from both teams, with Stephen Leach of the Capitals and Kevin Dineen of Hartford earning mutual high-sticking penalties, and Bob Rouse earning a tripping penalty with just 25 seconds left in the period. The second period ended with the Caps in control, 4-0.
Like its preceding periods, the final 20 minutes saw action early. Courtnall added his 38th goal of the season at 3:18 on an assist from Ciccarelli to put the Caps ahead 5-0. Hartford would get on the board with two power play goals, one by Ray Ferraro at 8:26 and one by Sylvain Cote at the 10:35 mark. Center Michal Pivonka lit the lamp for the sixth time by the Caps less than a minute later, at 11:31, assisted by Ridley and Rod Langway. Ciccarelli added his fourth goal of the game and his 40th goal of the year at 13:52, on assists by Gustafsson and Langway to give the visitors a commanding 7-2 lead. Just over two minutes later, a fight broke out between Dean Evason and Courtnall. This resulted with the Capitals on the power play, where Hunter scored the team’s last goal of the game on assists from Ciccarelli and Scott Stevens. The final score was 8-2, giving the Caps their fourth consecutive victory. Capitals goaltender Don Beaupre, a former North Star, made 27 saves in his first game in 10 days.
Ciccarelli’s seven-point game (four goals and three assists) was the highest number of points scored in a single game in Washington Capitals history, and the second seven-point game of Ciccarelli’s career, which he had previously done for the North Stars against the St. Louis Blues.
Beaupre spoke after the game saying, “I was pretty confident tonight. Once I handled a few shots, I was right in the game. I’ve never had the privilege to play behind a defense like this before. You just worry about your job — the puck — and they take care of everything else.”
Capitals Head Coach Bryan Murray commented, “Our defense is standing up and moving the puck out of our end with authority. We have a six-man unit that is just playing great. They’re playing strong in front of our net. There weren’t a lot of chances in five-on-five situations.”
Hartford Head Coach Larry Pleau commented on the Capitals’ performance by saying, “They’re [Capitals] a heck of a hockey team. The trades they made at the deadline really helped them. They played great tonight, but not that score. We struggled and can’t seem to do anything right.”
See more Retro Recaps HERE.
Stick Tap to Rob Carlin for Pointing Out Ciccarelli’s Performance