The Washington Capitals and New York Rangers have been rival clubs for the majority of the Capitals’ time in the National Hockey League. Over the nearly 47 seasons the Capitals have been in the league, the two Eastern Conference teams have met multiple times during the regular season and playoffs.
The Capitals opened their season against the Rangers on a few occasions, including their first-ever game back on October 9, 1974. They played a number of memorable games against the Rangers over the years, including several testy affairs. One matchup that was particularly confrontational took place on October 13, 1989, at the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland.
Going into the game, the Caps held a record of 1-2, as they won their season opener but lost the next two games. The Rangers, meanwhile, had won the first three games of their season and were hoping to extend their winning streak to four games.
During the prior season, the Capitals had the best regular season record in the Patrick Division at 41-29-10 for 92 points, only to be eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, while the Rangers had a record of 37-35-8 for 82 points and finished fourth in the Patrick Division.
On the injury front, Kelly Kisio of the Rangers sat out the game with a lower-back strain and was replaced with rookie Troy Mallette at center. The goalie matchup was Don Beaupre for Washington and John Vanbiesbrouck for the Rangers.
The Capitals wasted no time scoring in the opening moments of the contest. Just 17 seconds into the game, Stephen Leach scored his second goal of the season, getting assists from Michal Pivonka and Kevin Hatcher, to give the hosts an early 1-0 lead.
At 6:23, Kris King of the Rangers instigated a fight with Yvon Corriveau of the Capitals. Both players were sent to the penalty box, with King serving an additional two minutes for the instigator minor; Corriveau ended up with a bloody nose after the fight.
Less than two minutes after the fight (and after a failed power play by the Capitals), New York’s James Patrick got into a tussle with Capitals defenseman Scott Stevens, which resulted in both of them going to the penalty box, the former for roughing and the latter for high-sticking.
At 11:02, the Rangers tied the score when John Ogrodnick shot a backhander towards the net that found its way past Beaupre, assisted by Brian Mullen and Randy Moller.
Less than a minute and a half later, at 12:26, Capitals forward Dale Hunter was sprung on a breakaway by Dino Ciccarelli, which ended with the Caps ahead 2-1, a lead that was eliminated a short time later when Jan Erixon scored unassisted with just 29 seconds left in the period; this tally from the Blueshirts came soon after a tussle between Hunter and Ron Greschner. The score was 2-2 going into the first intermission.
Despite a number of power play opportunities, all four goals scored were even-strength tallies. Besides the fight between King and Corriveau, there were 11 minor penalties assessed during the period.
The second period was a much quieter period than the first, albeit not devoid of action, on either the scoring front or the fisticuffs front.
King once again became involved in his second fight of the evening, this time taking on the Capitals’ Alan May at 3:26.
The middle frame saw neither team light the lamp until the Rangers scored at 12:07 on a goal by Tony Granato, who scored his second of the season with an assist by Moller.
The Capitals responded nearly a minute and a half later. At the 13:32 mark, Ciccarelli scored on a rebound of a shot by defenseman Kevin Hatcher, knotting the score once more. The Caps pulled ahead two minutes later on a goal by Geoff Courtnall at 15:34. The score was 4-3 in favor of the home team going into second intermission.
Troy Mallette, the Rangers’ aforementioned rookie playing in place of injured Kelly Kisio, scored 2:42 into the third period to tie the score at 4-4; the goal marked his first NHL goal and was assisted by Greschner and Brian Mullen. Less than three minutes later, the Capitals once again took the lead; this time following a Dave Christian shot from the point on which Vanbiesbrouck made a kick save and the subsequent rebound was potted by Mike Ridley to give Washington the 5-4 advantage.
Soon after the goal by Ridley, Mullen was penalized for cross checking, putting the Caps on the power play. About a minute into the man-advantage, Ridley was penalized for hooking, nullifying the power play’ the subsequent 4-on-4 play was uneventful. Ridley scored his second goal of the game not long after exiting the penalty box, swiping the puck from Vanbiesbrouck after a shot by Rob Murray at 9:35; Kelly Miller had the secondary assist.
Dave Christian scored the last goal of the game, tallying unassisted on a slap shot from the left circle at 14:08 to put the Capitals ahead by a commanding 7-4 margin.
The fisticuffs action was not over though as Scott Stevens tangled with the Rangers’ Chris Nilan. Both were assessed fighting majors, with Stevens penalized for interference and Nilan getting an instigator penalty. (Fight here (low quality)) Kris King closed the game by getting a cross checking penalty.
The third period, overall, featured six minor penalties, in addition to the fight.
Following their victory, the Capitals’ record stood at an even 2-2 and marked the Rangers’ first loss of the season and the first loss for goalie Vanbiesbrouck. The contest was an extremely physical game, featuring three fights and 17 additional minor penalties for 64 penalty minutes overall.
Box Score of game from Hockey Reference
By Diane Doyle