Washington Capitals Halloween Happenings: Horrors and Highlights

Photo: Associated Press

In a normal year, October means many things. It’s a time when the weather gets colder, the leaves on the trees turn color, and college and professional football are in full swing. The Major League Baseball postseason is played, culminating with the World Series, takes place. Meanwhile, the National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Hockey League (NHL) seasons are commencing. In addition to a full schedule of sports, the month of October climaxes with the celebration of Halloween and all its festivities at the end of the month. However, because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, there is no NHL hockey scheduled for the month of October. As a result, NoVa Caps’ Diane Doyle looks back at some past Washington Capitals action, specifically games played on Halloween itself.

October 31, 1974

During their first season (1974-75), on Halloween Night, the Capitals played the Montreal Canadiens at the Capital Centre in a 3-0 Capitals’ loss. The game was scoreless after one period, but Montreal broke the scoreless tie about a third of the way through the second period and scored two more goals during the third period. Habs forward Guy Lafleur scored his fourth goal of the season, while the Caps ended October with a record of 1-8-1 on their way to the worst regular season record in NHL history.

Box Score from Hockey Reference — 10/31/1974
Box Score from NHL.COM — 10/31/1974

October 31, 1976

On Halloween Night in 1976, the Capitals played the Chicago Blackhawks at Chicago Stadium in their second game in history played on Halloween. This time around, the Caps were defeated by a score of 5-4. When the game had ended, they held a 2-6-2 record on their way to another poor season. (Author’s Note: information on this game is sketchy.)

Box Score from Hockey Reference — 10/31/1976

October 31, 1981

On Halloween Night in 1981, the Capitals traveled to Colorado where they played the Rockies in McNichols Sports Arena. The visitors took an early penalty about five minutes into the first period, and the Rockies took full advantage, scoring on the power play. The Rockies increased their lead to 2-0 just two minutes later. The deficit was cut to one when Todd Bidner scored for the Capitals with less than five minutes remaining in the first period. The Rockies, however, scored less than a minute later. This was answered the next period, when the Caps evened up the score on two power play goals by Ryan Walter, his sixth and seventh of the year. The score was even at 3-3 after two periods. During the third period, Colorado took the lead again, but the Capitals’ Dennis Maruk scored a power play goal before the period was halfway over to even the score again, this time 4-4. This would prove to be for naught, however, as the Rockies took the lead again on an Aaron Broten goal and added an empty-net goal near the end of the game. The final score was 6-4 in favor of the Rockies.

Box Score from NHL.com — 10/31/1981
Box Score from Hockey Reference — 10/31/1981

October 31, 1984

On Halloween Night in 1984, the Capitals played the Calgary Flames at home.  The game started off well when Bobby Carpenter and Craig Laughlin scored power play goals to give the hosts a 2-0 advantage heading into the first intermission. However, the second period was not as good, as Calgary scored two goals to even the score at 2-2. With less than five minutes to go in the game, Calgary pulled ahead. Luckily, the Caps got a game-tying goal with less than a minute and a half to go, sending the 3-3 game to overtime. After bad misfortune for most of the game, the Capitals’ Mike Gartner scored the game-winning goal on assists from Carpenter and Scott Stevens nearly two minutes into the 0vertime period. This was the first time the Caps had won a game on Halloween, given they had lost in their three previous Halloween dates.

Box Score from Hockey Reference — 10/31/1984|
Box Score from NHL.Com — 10/31/1984

October 31, 1987

On Halloween Night in 1987, the Caps played the Minnesota North Stars in Metropolitan Sports Center in Bloomington, Minnesota. In this game, the Caps opened up the scoring on a power play goal by Mike Ridley after the North Stars took a penalty at the halfway mark of the period.  Minnesota tied it up, however, on an early second period goal. The North Stars pulled ahead early in the third period, but the Caps got two consecutive power play goals from Scott Stevens and Dale Hunter to move ahead 3-2. The tide would turn against Washington after Lou Franceschetti took a tripping penalty with less than five minutes left in regulation and the North Stars’ Neal Broten tied the game on a power play goal. The game proceeded to overtime but neither team scored, resulting in a tie (this was pre-shootout days).

Box Score from Hockey Reference — 10/31/1987
Penalty Just What North Stars Need to Deadlock Capitals 3-3

October 31, 1989

On Halloween Night in 1989, the Caps played the St. Louis Blues at home. In this game, there was no scoring during the first period and no scoring for the majority of the second period. Capitals defenseman Scott Stevens scored a power play with less than five minutes to go in the period after Robert Dirk of the Blues took a major penalty for fighting and high-sticking; Dirk’s fighting major was with the Caps’ Nick Kypreos. The Capitals headed into the second intermission ahead 1-0. after two periods. This lead would evaporate as the Blues’ Rod Brind’Amour scored at the seven-minute mark of the third period to tie the game. There was no scoring for the remainder of regulation and no scoring during the five-minute overtime, ending the game on a 1-1 stalemate, the Capitals’ second Halloween tie.

Box Score from Hockey Reference — 10/31/1989

October 31, 1992

On Halloween Night in 1992, the Capitals went on the road to play the Edmonton Oilers in Northlands Coliseum.  During the first period, Edmonton scored first but the Capitals’ Peter Bondra scored his 10th goal of the year to tie the score at one apiece. During the second period, the Capitals’ Steve Konowalchuk briefly put the Caps ahead 2-1, however, Edmonton tied it up nearly two minutes later on a power play. Edmonton added another goal less than three minutes into the period to take a 3-2 lead. The Oilers added a fourth goal during the third period to solidify a 4-2 victory at home.

Box Score from Hockey Reference — 10/31/1992
Box Score from NHL.com — 10/31/1992

October 31, 1997

On Halloween Night in 1997, the Capitals played the Philadelphia Flyers at home. The Flyers opened up the scoring nearly nine minutes into the first period, and during the second period, with star Eric Lindros in the penalty box, the visitors scored a shorthanded goal to take a 2-0 lead. Just as the game began to turn into a horror night, the Caps struck back over three minutes later on a goal by Steve Konowalchuk. Defenseman Calle Johansson scored the game-tying goal on a power play over two minutes later to knot the score at 2-2. The game featured a number of penalties, as exemplified by a penalty-filled, scoreless third frame. The game proceeded to overtime but neither team dented the twine, ending in another tie for the Capitals on Halloween night.

Box Score from Hockey Reference — 10/31/1997

October 31, 1999

On Halloween Night in 1999, the Capitals played the San Jose Sharks on the road. Ron Sutter of the Sharks opened up the scoring during the first period, but Konowalchuk tied the score on a power play goal during the second period. San Jose pulled ahead five minutes into the third period and the visitors would be unable to find any momentum in an eventual 2-1 loss. The Capitals were in the early stages of a very long losing streak to San Jose that would not end until 2009.

Box Score from Hockey Reference — 10/31/1999

October 31, 2000

On Halloween Night in 2000, the Capitals played the Detroit Red Wings at the MCI Center (now Capital One Arena). Capitals forward Jeff Halpern scored his third goal of the year for the Caps over 12 minutes into the period, but Detroit tied the score just over two minutes later. However, with two minutes to go in the period, defenseman Richard Zednik put the Caps ahead 2-1. The Capitals scored twice during the second period, receiving goals from defenseman Sylvain Cote and another from Zednik. Zednik would score again to complete the hat trick during the third period to put the Caps ahead 5-1. The two teams traded goals after that, with Joe Sacco scoring for the Caps. The final score was 6-2 in favor of the Caps. Washington had stopped a four-game win streak by the Red Wings, boosted by Zednik’s first career hat trick and first game played after serving a four-game suspension. This was the first time the Capitals had won a game in regulation time on Halloween. Their last win on October’s penultimate day was a 4-3 victory against the Calgary Flames in 1984.

Zednik Returns with a Fury
Box Score from NHL.Com — 10/31/2000
Box Score from Hockey Reference — 10/31/2000
Washington Capitals play Detroit Red Wings

October 31, 2003

On Halloween Night in 2003, the Capitals played the Atlanta Thrashers in MCI Center.  The game did not start off well for the Caps as Vyacheslav Kozlov scored a power play goal over five minutes into the period.  Matthew Pettinger scored a goal just over two minutes later, tying the game at 1-1. Near the end of the period, with Ilya Kovalchuk in the penalty box, the Caps pulled ahead on a power play goal by rookie Alexander Semin who scored his very first career goal. There was no more scoring in the game but several penalties and a second period fight.  The final score was 2-1 in favor of the Caps and snapped an eight game win less streak.

Box Score From Hockey Reference — 10/31/2003
Capitals Top Atlanta to Snap Losing Skid

October 31, 2015

On Halloween Night in 2003, the Capitals played the Florida Panthers  at Sunrise’s BB&T Center. In this game, the Panthers scored the first goal early in the first period. Early in the second frame, the Capitals’ Jay Beagle tied the score at 1-1. The game remained tied for the remainder of regulation time, sending the contest to overtime. More than halfway through the extra frame, Capitals’ center Evgeny Kuznetsov scored the game-winner on assists from his fellow Russians Alex Ovechkin and Dmitry Orlov.

Box Score from Hockey Reference — 10/31/2015
Kuznetsov Continues Hot Start Scores in-Overtime to Lift Caps Over Panthers
Kuznetsovs OT Goal Lifts Capitals Past Panthers
Capitals Beat Panthers 2-1 in Overtime

Overall

Throughout their history, the Capitals have played 12 games on Halloween, posting a record of 4-5-3 (including ties). Their victories included two regulation wins and two overtime wins. They played three tied games, all within the 1987-1997 time frame, inclusive. They lost the first three games they played on Halloween, and posted their first win in 1984. Their first win in regulation came in 2000 in a victory against the Detroit Red Wings. Milestones achieved by players on Halloween include a hat trick by Richard Zednik in 2000 and Alexander Semin’s first NHL goal in 2003.

By Diane Doyle

About Diane Doyle

Been a Caps fan since November 1975 when attending a game with my then boyfriend and now husband.
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