LANDOVER -- This battle of division leaders more than lived up to all expectations last night at the Capital Centre.
The Washington Capitals, who regained the Patrick Division lead last night, hooked up in 65 minutes of end-to-end action and fights with the Smythe Division-leading Vancouver Canucks, and the two teams walked off the ice with a 3-3 tie before 16,789.
When it was over, the shots were nearly even, the fights were close to being a draw and both teams had two chances to win it in the five-minute sudden-death overtime.
And both coaches were satisfied with the tie and getting one point instead of none.
"It was a great game to watch and I was happy to come out with a tie," said Vancouver coach Pat Quinn. "In fact, I caught myself watching the action a little too much. I can see why Washington is in first place."
Washington coach Terry Murray said: "We did a lot of outstanding things out there, and I'm not discouraged at all with a tie. When you play a team that's in first place and playing as well as Vancouver is, you have to be satisfied with a tie. I knew it was going to be a darn close game."
Dimitri Khristich had a point-blank shot with 19 seconds left in overtime, but he couldn't put the puck past Canucks goaltender Kirk McLean for the winning score.
Khristich was the second Capitals player in the final 2:30 of the game to be turned back from in front of the net by McLean.
Todd Krygier had a near identical shot midway through the overtime, but McLean was able to make the save and keep his team in the game.
Krygier said: "It figures that I wouldn't score the way things are going for me. If someone else had taken the shot they probably would have scored."
The two Washington scoring chances came after Vancouver's Pavel Bure and Trevor Linden failed to score on excellent opportunities in the first 1 minute, 45 seconds of overtime.
Bure was stopped at point-blank range by Washington goaltender Don Beaupre, and Linden sent a shot that bounced (( off the right post.
Vancouver extended its unbeaten streak to nine games (5-0-4) last night, the second longest unbeaten streak in the history of the franchise. The longest unbeaten streak of 10 came in 1977.
The one point gave Washington (26-13-2 for 54 points) first place over the idle New York Rangers (26-14-1, 53 points).
Defenseman Al Iafrate, whose goal gave the Capitals a 2-1 lead 9:07 into the second period, took consolation that his team is 2-0-1 in the past three games after losing three straight.
"Ten days ago [during losing streak], we probably would have lost it," said Iafrate. "We really took it to them in the second period [16-10 bulge in shots but 1-1 in goals], but we couldn't put them away. Then they got the late third-period goal to tie it, and both teams had great chances to win it. I guess that's a typical tie game."
Iafrate said the Canucks are a "tough team that is no fluke. They've proven themselves through 40 games or more."
Murray said that McLean has been the major reason Vancouver leads the Smythe Division.
"He makes the tough saves look easy," said Murray.
Vancouver defender Jyrki Lumme said of McLean, who made 27 saves last night: "He's been unbelievable. He's been playing great."