This Date in Caps History - October 28
On October 28, 1979 the Washington Capitals defeated the Edmonton Oilers by a 6-4 score in front of 15,393 fans at the Northlands Coliseum in Edmonton. The game was Washington's first against any of the four former World Hockey Association teams absorbed by the NHL and also marked the first-ever appearance of 18-year-old Wayne Gretzky against the Caps. Gretzky took the ice despite a fever of 102 degrees but retired for the night after three first period shifts.
Leif Svensson scored first for the Capitals. He took a feed from fellow Swede Bengt Gustafsson and beat Oilers netminder Eddie Mio at 16:32 of the first.Just over a minute later, the Caps got into penalty trouble. Yvon Labre was called for holding at 17:41 and Washington's Bengt Gustafsson - a European-trained rookie who was unaware of the minutiae of the NHL rulebook - dropped his gloves on the ice so he could fix his suspenders. Gustafsson was promptly called for delay of game.
Edmonton came right back to tie the game on the resulting 5-on-3 power play when Pat Price scored at the 18:03 mark. The Oilers still held a one-man advantage when Stan Weir scored at 19:21 of the opening frame to give Edmonton the lead. The Caps put seven shots on Mio in the first while Edmonton responded with eight against Washington's Wayne Stephenson.
Ryan Walter drew Washington even just 1:16 into the middle frame when he scored his second goal of the year. Tony Cassolato and Dennis Hextall claimed the assists. For Cassolato, it was his first NHL point. The 36-year-old Hextall - who had recently been named a playing assistant coach - was playing in his 700th NHL game. The tie was short-lived. Just 25 seconds after Walter's goal, Edmonton's "Cowboy" Bill Flett tallied to restore the Oilers' one-goal lead. Errol Rausse scored for Washington at 11:19 of the second to even the affair at 3-3. Tom Rowe picked up the lone assist on Rausse's goal. Washington outshot the Oilers by a 14-4 margin in the second period.
Rausse helped Washington take the lead when he and Rick Green assisted on Rolf Edberg's go-ahead tally at 12:25 of the third period. The Caps added to their lead at 13:31 when Rowe scored with help from Yvon Labre and Walter. With less than three minutes remaining and Washington skating a man short, the Caps were whistled for another violation. Mio skated to the Edmonton bench and was replaced by a sixth skater. With Edmonton enjoying a 6-on-4 advantage, Flett pumped home his second of the game at 17:22 to pull the Oilers within a goal. Hextall ended any thoughts of a deadlock when he tallied into an empty net with 36 seconds left on the clock. The Caps had a 12-5 advantage in third period shots on goal and led by a comfortable 33-17 margin on the evening.
The win ended a four-game losing streak for the Caps and came despite some adverse travel circumstances. After dropping a 5-3 decision in Vancouver on Saturday, October 27, the Caps returned to their Vancouver hotel to grab a few hours of sleep before an early Sunday flight to Edmonton. They caught a 6:45 am bus for the Vancouver airport where they were scheduled to depart at 8:10. The club was then informed that its plane had been hit by lightning and would not be able to leave the ground until 10:30. That time was accurate, but the flight was a brief one. Forty minutes after takeoff, the plane returned to Vancouver because the electrical system went out.
The players were herded onto another plane and sat in warm and cramped conditions for more than two hours before it was determined that that plane, too, was not air-worthy. The third plane did the trick, getting the tired and hungry Washington team to Edmonton just two hours before faceoff against the Oilers.