LANDOVER -- The Minnesota North Stars' Dave Gagner ruined one of the best comebacks of the season last night by the Washington Capitals.
Gagner's second goal of the game, with 8 minutes, 12 seconds remaining in the third period, propelled the North Stars to a 5-3 victory over the Capitals before 14,862 at the Capital Centre.
"Washington rallied but we bounced back," said Gagner, who had an assist to go with his two goals. "It's always a good sign when you can do that on the road. Nobody put their heads down on the bench after [Dimitri] Khristich scored on the penalty shot. We knew we could score on them because we built a 3-0 lead, so it was just a matter of turning things around and going back after them."
Washington had fallen behind, 3-0, before tying the game at 4:40 of the third period on Khristich's penalty shot. Minnesota's Chris Dahlquist, a former Baltimore Skipjack, was called by referee Kerry Fraser for closing his glove on the puck in the crease and Washington was awarded the penalty shot.
Khristich picked up the puck at center ice, skated in on North Stars goalie Darcy Wakaluk and made Wakaluk commit himself. When Wakaluk started to go down, Khristich put the puck high and to the glove side for a 3-3 tie.
The penalty shot, called the most exciting play in hockey, was the first for the Capitals in 175 games and first successful one in 364 games. Mike Gartner scored the last one April 4, 1987, against the Philadelphia Flyers.
"Sure I'm disappointed with the loss," said Capitals coach Terry Murray. "We did enough things to win the game and we made a great comeback to tie the game. This was the kind of game that is so frustrating. You wonder how it happened and why it happened."
The North Stars opened up a 3-0 lead on first-period goals by Ulf Dahlen and Gagner and a second-period goal by Marc Bureau. Washington rallied on second-period goals by Michal Pivonka and John Druce, setting the stage for Khristich's penalty shot.
"I felt good tonight and our line played well," said Druce. "We tried to create something around the net. Wakaluk made some point-blank saves that stopped us. He came up big."
Gagner, with 70 seconds remaining, fed Mike Craig for Minnesota's fifth goal to add some insurance.
"I'm disappointed that we lost," said Capitals goalie Don Beaupre. "We went through a similar period last year. We don't give up a lot of shots [the Capitals outshot the North Stars, 35-23], but we give up goals. I think Minnesota wanted this game a little more than we did."
Wakaluk (5-6-0) was outstanding in the goal, making several big saves as the Capitals pulled out all the stops in the final minutes. He finished with 32 saves for the game.
NOTES: The Capitals yesterday recalled G Jim Hrivnak from the AHL Baltimore Skipjacks. Hrivnak will practice with the Capitals the rest of the week and then be returned to Baltimore on Saturday, according to coach Terry Murray. . . . Hrivnak, D Ken Sabourin, LW Nick Kypreos and C Tim Bergland were scratched last night. . . . Washington has the No. 1 power play in the NHL with 25.6 percent.