On April 6, 1975, the Capitals closed out their inaugural season with an 8-4 whipping of the Pittsburgh Penguins in front of 9,061 hardy souls at the Capital Centre. The victory raised Washington’s season record to 8-67-5, still the worst mark for any first-year franchise in NHL history.
Veteran Pittsburgh winger Vic Hadfield started the scoring with his 31st goal of the season at 10:10 of the first period. Tommy Williams answered on a power play for Washington with his 21st at 12:41. Pittsburgh’s Ron Stackhouse scored at 14:08 to make it 2-1, Penguins and former Cap Lew Morrison made it 3-1 with a shorthanded goal at 15:55. Just 28 seconds after Morrison’s goal, former Penguin Ron Lalonde – who came to Washington in exchange for Morrison just over three months earlier – netted a power play marker to pull the Caps within a goal at 3-2. Each team had 10 shots on goal in the first period.
Stan Gilbertson tied the game for Washington at 2:36 of the second stanza. Less than two minutes later, Bob Gryp’s goal gave the Capitals their first lead of the night at 4-3. Stackhouse’s second of the game came on a Penguins power play at 17:18 to tie the score but Williams answered 36 seconds later with his second of the game for Washington. The Caps took a 5-4 lead to the dressing room. The Penguins had 13 second period shots on Caps netminder Ron Low while Washington had nine on Pittsburgh’s Bob Johnson, a product of Michigan State who was playing in what would prove to be his final NHL game.
The third period belonged to Washington, and more specifically, to Gilbertson. At 13:50 of the final frame he scored his second of the night to make it 6-4, Capitals. Exactly one week after Lalonde notched the first hat trick in Capitals history, Gilbertson duplicated the feat with his third of the game at 16:58. Eighteen seconds later, Gilbertson went one better when he became the first Capital ever to score four goals in a single game. Washington skated off with a four-goal win, its largest margin of victory in any of its eight triumphs that season.
Pittsburgh must have been impressed with Gilbertson’s prolific offensive display. Eight months later, the Penguins would ship Harvey Bennett to Washington to get Gilbertson in a Pittsburgh sweater.
In addition to scoring two goals of his own, Williams also assisted on all four of Gilbertson’s goals. Williams finished off the season as the Capitals’ leader in goals (22), assists (36) and points (58).