During the Rock the Red era, the Washington Capitals and their fans have enjoyed the exploits of high-scoring forward Alex Ovechkin and also defenseman Mike Green, who once topped 30 goals for a season. Back in 1993, the Capitals and their fans also enjoyed the goal scoring heroics of a high-scoring forward and an offensive defenseman. At that time, Peter Bondra was their leading scorer and Kevin Hatcher was a high-scoring offensive defenseman.
Going into the game of March 23, 1993, the Capitals had a record of 36-28-7 and were in second place in the Patrick Division, a division led by the Pittsburgh Penguins at 45-21-6. They were also trying to stay ahead of the New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers and New York Islanders, who were close behind.
The Caps were playing their third consecutive game at home and had won the first two games. Prior to the game, the Caps traded their backup goalie, Jim Hrivnak, and future considerations to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for the Jets’ backup goalie, Rick Tabaracci.
The Nordiques, meanwhile, were 40-23-7 and in second place in the Adams Division, four points behind the first place Montreal Canadiens and one point ahead of the Boston Bruins. The Canadiens, Nordiques, and Bruins were in a dog fight for the Adams Division title.
The goalie matchup for the game was Don Beaupre, the Caps then number one goalie, against Ron Hextall, who is better known for his time with the Flyers. The 1992-93 season was his only season with the Nordiques.
Chris Simon, who at the time was a rookie for the Nordiques, was assessed with a tripping penalty at 6:26. 36 seconds later, Peter Bondra scored his 31st goal of the year. He was assisted by Mike Ridley and Al Iafrate.
70 seconds before the end of the period, Kevin Hatcher scored his 30th goal of the season with a wrist shot. Bondra passed to Hatcher who weaved through the Nordiques’ defense and then shot the puck through goalie Hextall’s legs. He was also assisted Dmitry Khristich.
Hatcher became the seventh defenseman in NHL history to score 30 goals in a season. The others were: Bobby Orr, who did it five times, Paul Coffey, who did it four times, Denis Potvin, who did it three times, and Doug Wilson, Ray Bourque and Phil Housley, who each did it one time. The Caps went into the first intermission with a 2-0 lead.
Just under 30 seconds into the period, Pat Elynuik of the Capitals and Andrei Kovalenko got into a scrum, with Elynuik earning a roughing penalty and Kovalenko earning an elbowing penalty. With the teams on a four on four situation, Matts Sundin got on the scoreboard for Quebec with his 39th goal of the season. He was assisted by Curtis Leschyshyn and Valeri Kaminsky. The score was now 2-1.
But just 16 seconds later, Peter Bondra scored his second goal of the game and his 32nd of the season to restore the Caps’ two-goal margin at 3-1. Pat Elynuik added another Caps goal at 10:58, getting assists from Keith Jones and Dale Hunter. The score was now 4-1 in favor of the Caps, which was the score going into second intermission.
The first half of the third period was relatively quiet, with Tony Twist of Quebec taking a roughing penalty early and Al Iafrate of the Caps taking a slashing penalty. But neither power play resulted in a goal.
At 12:10, Dmitry Khristich added his 31st goal of the season, unassisted. With just under five minutes left in the game, Chris Simon earned am unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. He ended up getting ejected from the game, earning two misconducts and a game misconduct in addition to his unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
At 17:35, Alan May of the Caps slashed Steven Finn. After that, they both got into a fight. In addition to the fighting majors, May also go assessed a misconduct penalty. The final score was 5-1. At the end of the game, Hextall, likely due to frustration at how the game went, was given a misconduct penalty.
The Caps had won their third game in a row and the third in the current homestand. They were now 37-28-7. Hatcher’s goal was one more goal for the Caps’ defense which was now the highest scoring defensive unit in NHL history with 85 goals. The goal totals, thus far: Al Iafrate (23), Sylvain Cote (19), Calle Johansson (six), Paul Cavallini (five) and Shawn Anderson (two). They had combined to break the record of 78 set by the 1983-84 Edmonton Oilers.
Head Coach Terry Murray spoke to the media about Hatcher.
“Kevin is having a terrific year. This was one of his better games in a long time, and he topped it off with his 30th.”
Hatcher himself spoke about his milestone.
“I wanted it, you bet, once I got close and it became realistic. If you had told me at the beginning of the season I’d get 30, I’d have said you were crazy. Once I got to 29, I wasn’t too worried about making it. I had 13 games to get one more and said to myself, ‘Hey, relax.’ It wasn’t like I had only one or two games left.”
Murray also talked about goalie Don Beaupre, who had 25 saves. He said that Beaupre maybe had his best game of the season. “He was under control, relaxed, strong and confident.”
Hatcher ultimately ended up with 34 goals for the season and ended up second on the team in goals, second only to Peter Bondra, who ended up with 37 goals. He also ended up with 79 total points, which was behind only Bondra and Mike Ridley. Two other defensemen on the team, Al Iafrate and Sylvain Cote, also topped the 20-goal mark.
For the season, the Caps finished in second place in the Patrick Division. They met the New York Islanders in the playoffs and lost to them in six games. That was the playoff series most infamous for Dale Hunter checking Pierre Turgeon from behind right after he scored a goal, getting ejected from the game, and earning a 21-game suspension. The Nordiques themselves lost in the first round to the Montreal Canadiens who went on to win the Stanley Cup.
By Diane Doyle