LANDOVER -- Eighty goals!
Brett Hull is the guy who scored them, only the third NHL player to ever turn the trick, and he was matter of fact about it: "You just go out and play; get caught thinking about the future and you're not thinking about the task at hand."
Now Kelly Chase, he thought it was a big deal, even though he had turned in a game he'll probably carry with him forever. Called up from the minors just a couple of days before, Chase's first goal proved the difference in the St. Louis Blues' 2-1 victory over the Washington Capitals.
"You're amazed sitting on the bench watching him play," the young tough said of his famed mate. "If there's a way to score on a play, he'll find it. When you're playing in the kid leagues, 14-15 years old, you score a lot. But not 80 goals, and here he's doing it in the NHL. I can't even imagine putting my arms in the air 80 times [celebrating]. Both my shoulders would be thrown out."
Hull's power-play goal started it and, after Kelly Miller tied it for the Caps early in the second period, Chase got the winner a couple of minutes later on a long, low smash Caps goalie Don Beaupre caught a fleeting glimpse of due to a large mob staging a battle royale on his doorstep.
The kid wasn't supposed to do such things at this level as he's mostly muscle. In his first game Sunday, Chase picked up 20 penalty minutes in a Chicago Stadium war. In 60 games for Peoria, he logged 406 penalty minutes, but had 20 goals and 34 assists, elevating him out of the strictly goon category.
The Blues hadn't won in six games (0-4-2), "so it was good to get one after playing well but getting nothing for it," said Hull. While they were closing to within three points of the front-running Blackhawks in the Norris Division, the Caps took a step back in the Patrick.
Late heroics in New Jersey got the Devils by Pittsburgh, 5-4, sending them leap-frogging over Washington and Philadelphia and into third place. The Caps, with a game in hand, trail the Flyers by a point and Jersey by a pair.
"Guess we'll just have to get the job done up on the Island Thursday and back here Friday [vs. Minnesota]," sighed a hardly disappointed Caps coach Terry Murray. "The only thing we didn't do tonight is finish off our plays. We had at least a half-dozen good opportunities and couldn't finish any of them."
Scoring has been a problem for the Caps all season if not a whole lot longer than that. For instance, while Hull has logged 80 goals in his 72 starts, the top four Washington scorers -- Miller, Kevin Hatcher, Dino Ciccarelli and Mike Ridley -- have combined for just 86.
"Give Brett the opportunity to score and he converts," said Murray. "But how he makes his team better, a club that has been up near the top all season, is his uncanny ability to score from anywhere in the offensive zone. As a constant threat, he puts you on the defensive all the time and that wears you down."
Pressed, Hull finally zeroed in on his milestone accomplishment. "The neat thing is being included on a list with [Wayne] Gretzky and [Mario] Lemieux with some [six] games to go," he offered. As for pop, Brett's already 22 goals ahead of Bobby's best year and "the Golden Jet" has half a wall in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
* Next month's Boston Marathon field is coming along nicely. Of course, it helps when the sponsor, John Hancock Financial Services, has all the top guns on its clinic staff.
The women's side will feature world best Ingrid Kristiansen, second-rated Wanda Panfil, winner of New York and London last year, the next great star in the sport, Uta Pippig of Germany, and their country's best Kim Jones (U.S.), Sylvie Bornet (France) and Lorraine Moller (New Zealand).
The men's cast includes New York and Commonwealth Games champion Douglas Wakiihuri, 1988 victor Ibrahim Hussein, three-time runner-up Juma Ikangaa, former world record-holder Steve Jones, two-time Boston winner Geoff Smith, Olympic silver medalist John Treacy, plus a strong Latin American contingent.
* More than a hundred people were on hand today in Washington competing in the fourth National Anthem Contest to "discover" anthem-renderers for the end-of-training games between the Orioles and Red Sox in RFK Stadium April 6-7. Auditions were held at home plate and the public address system was used. Imagine having to listen to a hundred "Oh, say can you sees. . ." while waiting your turn.