Under normal circumstances, barring strikes, lockouts, or pandemics, the NHL starts their regular season action during the month of October, starting their 82 game regular season. By the end of October, games are well under way and the idea of the offseason is far from the minds of those in the hockey worlds. This Retro Recap post takes a look at a game the Washington Capitals played against the Winnipeg Jets on October 30, 1983.
Heading into their game against the Winnipeg Jets, the Washington Capitals owned a record of 4-7-0. The team had begun the season with a seven-game losing streak but had followed that it with a four-game winning streak. The losing streak to start the season likely had fans worried that the team was reverting to the days of being near the bottom of the league standings, after qualifying for the playoffs for the first time ever in the 1983-84 season. At the time of their contest against the Jets, they found themselves on a five-game road trip that started on the East Coast and was steadily moving westward. The Jets, meanwhile, held a 3-6-2 record heading into the game against Washington and had lost their most recent game to the Calgary Flames.
The game started off poorly for the Caps as Glen Currie took a tripping penalty. The team managed to kill off the infraction, but just seven seconds after Currie was released from the penalty box, the Jets’ Morris Lukowich scored his second goal of the season to put the Jets ahead 1-0. However, the turn would turn in the Capitals’ favor shortly thereafter. Capitals forward Mike Gartner scored a power play goal at the 12:37 mark, one minute after a Jets’ penalty had expired. The goal was Gartner’s fifth tally of the season and came just one day after his 24th birthday. The goal had come off a play in which forward Craig Laughlin had stripped the puck from Dave Babych of Winnipeg and Gartner then punched it in for the score. The score remained at 1-1 heading into the first intermission.
The first portion of the second frame featured several minor penalties by both teams but neither team was able to dent the twine on the subsequent power plays. The goalies for both teams (Al Jensen for the Capitals and Brian Hayward for the Jets) both made great saves during the man-advantages to keep their teams in a deadlock. The deadlock would be broken at 9:11 by Gartner, as he finished a 2-on-1 with Dave Christian to put Washington ahead 2-1; Bengt Gustafsson was credited with the secondary assist. The goal came during the last 30 seconds of a 4-on-4 situation in which the Capitals’ Bobby Gould and the Jets’ Dale Hawerchuk were serving coincidental minors for slashing. Less than two minutes later, Gartner scored another goal to complete the hat trick, upping his goal total for the season to seven. The goal came on deflected Scott Stevens slapshot past Hayward. The Jets would respond at the 14:08 mark of the period on a power play goal by Brian Mullen, with assists from Moe Mantha and Dave Babych. The score remained at 3-2 as the second intermission arrived.
Early in the final frame, Winnipeg’s Jimmy Mann took a major high-sticking penalty that gave the Capitals a prime opportunity to build upon their lead. Bengt Gustafsson would require seven stitches as a result of the play. The momentum would not last as Craig Laughlin was hit with a penalty about three and a half minutes into the major penalty. Just over a minute later, Capitals captain Rod Langway and the Jets’ Paul MacLean took coincidental minors. When Mann exited the penalty box from his major penalty, the Jets capitalized on their 4-on-3 power play as Babych scored 30 seconds later. The game was now tied at 3-3.
The game remained tied until the 13:32 mark when Gustafsson, who by that time was back on the ice, sent the puck off the side of the net and became tangled up with Winnipeg defenders, but managed to kick the puck up. Gould then shot towards the net, knocking it between Hayward’s pads to give the Caps a 4-3 lead; Currie had the secondary assist. After the next faceoff, the Capitals’ Alan Haworth carried the puck and passed to Currie, who then passed to Gould, who was in the slot who scored his second goal in 12 seconds. The Caps now led 5-3. 30 seconds later, Washington defenseman Larry Murphy shot from the left wing circle and past Hayward to advance the Capitals’ lead to 6-3. The two goals from Gould and the goal by Murphy were the fastest trio of goals in franchise history at the time.
Dave Christian added another goal with more than two minutes to go in the game; assisted by Bryan Erickson and Gustafsson. The final score was 7-3 and gave the Capitals their fifth consecutive win and their fourth consecutive road victory. The five-game winning streak matched a streak they had compiled in March 1980. The Caps’ offense, which had struggled for much of the year, had erupted in both this game and their prior game against the Minnesota North Stars. Their record was now 5-7-0 and they would continue their road trip in Edmonton, Alberta.
Their winning streak ended in their next game as they were drubbed by the Oilers 11-3 in Edmonton just two days later. They would hover at or just under the .500 record until January 11, 1984 when their win total exceeded their losses for the first time that season at 21-20-3. They inched further above .500 as January progressed. From January 27 through February 18, the Caps ran off a 10-game winning streak, the longest in team history which was not topped until 2010. The 10-game winning streak was the foundation of a 14-game unbeaten streak that had started on January 8. The Capitals won three in a row, then played to a tie against the Buffalo Sabres on January 25, and followed that with the long winning streak. Their final record for the 1983-84 regular season was 48-27-5 and a second place finish in the Patrick Division to make the playoffs. They would beat the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round by sweeping three games but lost to the New York Islanders in the second round.
By Diane Doyle
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Portrait of a Caps Alumnus – Mike Gartner
Capitals Alumni Profile: Bobby Gould
Box Score of Game from Hockey Reference — 10/30/1983