THE WAY BACK MACHINE: 3/13/87 Caps Score Seven PP Goals
/ Washington Capitals
On March 13, 1987, heading into a matchup at home against Toronto, it was safe to say that the Washington Capitals were in the midst of one of their most disappointing seasons. At 29-31-8, the Caps were still well positioned to make the Stanley Cup playoffs, but a far cry from where they had been just a year prior.
The Caps finished the 1985-86 season with 107 points, most in team history, and a formidable record: 50-23-7.
But the Caps stumbled out of the gate in the fall of 1986, as three of their stars – Dave Christian, Bob Carpenter (who would be traded to the Rangers midway through the season), and Mike Gartner – got off to slow starts. That, coupled with the retirement of Bengt Gustafsson (who would return to play in 1987-88), left the Caps searching for answers.
After a three-game losing streak in March leading up to their game against the Maple Leafs, Capitals head coach Bryan Murray had his players do wind sprints at the end of practice in a session that lasted more than an hour and a half.
“There are big times – 12 games to go – and we’ve got to play well,” Murray said. “You can’t take any more situations where it’s a nothing game; there are no games that will be that way for the rest of this year.”
The Caps’ power play was particularly vexing for Murray, a unit which had been near the bottom of league for the majority of the season. During the three-game losing streak, the Caps were just 2-for-18 on the power play.
Murray pulled aside his special teams after the grueling practice on March 11 and spent time working on the man advantage.
“I don’t think there’s the respect for our power play that there should be,” Murray said. “I think the fact we don’t take advantage of it makes them (opponents) more willing to try things.”
The work the Caps put in that afternoon paid dividends when the Caps took the ice at the Capital Center to face Toronto two days later.
With the game tied at two late in the second period, the Caps produced a dominating power play after Toronto’s Todd Gill was called for holding at 12:54. On the Caps’ seventh shot with the man advantage, Larry Murphy scored from the point to give the Caps a 3-2 lead at 14:49.