LANDOVER -- Wayne Gretzky is great, but last night Kevin Hatcher, who went from boos to cheers in about the same time it took the Washington Capitals to score two short-handed goals, was greater.
Hatcher, roundly booed by the sellout crowd of 18,130 at the Capital Centre in the first period, sparked a Capitals comeback with two goals and two assists in a 7-4 victory over the Los Angeles Kings.
The Capitals, who were winless in their previous three games, fell behind the Kings, 2-0, in the first six minutes, 21 seconds. Washington scored three short-handed goals -- a team record -- and three power-play goals. The Capitals have the best power play in the NHL with 58 goals in 223 opportunities.
Hatcher, who scored his first goal since Jan. 1, was the chief architect of the Washington rally.
Randy Burridge cut the Kings' lead to one on a power-play goal that was assisted by Hatcher. The big defenseman, who will be making his third straight appearance in the NHL All-Star Game, scored two goals -- one during a power play and another short-handed -- to give the Capitals a 3-2 lead.
"It was definitely my best game of the season, something I've been looking for for a long time," said Hatcher. "The two short-handed goals turned the game around for us. I used a lot of ice tonight. We did a lot of good things on our power play and our penalty-killing. It was a big game for me and the team. I think my main problem has been that we got off to such a great start this season that I was laying back and playing defense instead of jumping up and playing more offense. I decided that I had to start playing my old style and started jumping into the offense more often. I needed this game. It was a big shot in the arm."
Mike Ridley followed Hatcher's man-down goal with another short-handed score 18 seconds later, another Capitals record; Dimitri Khristich scored during a power play; and John Druce converted a pass from Peter Bondra for a 6-2 lead.
"On my first goal, I got a pass from Calle Johansson and just one-timed a slap shot on goal," said Hatcher. "On the second goal, Kelly Miller and I went in on a two-on-one break and I stopped high in the slot. Kelly put on the brakes in the right circle and gave me a perfect pass. I just had to hit the net."
Los Angeles rallied on goals by Bob Kudelski and Rob Blake, off Gretzky's second assist of the game during a power play to cut the Capitals' lead to 6-4. However, Johansson accepted a pass from Burridge and scored the Capitals' third short-handed goal of the game to end the scoring.
"It was a pretty good hockey game when it was 2-2, but then Washington scores two short-handed goals and opened things up for them," said Gretzky. "We made a couple of mistakes, but that's the way it has been going for us this season. It's been a season of adversity so far."
NOTES: Vice President Dan Quayle led a congressional delegation of a dozen to last night's game. Also, the Redskins, who will play the Lions in the NFC championship tomorrow at RFK Stadium, had 10 representatives on hand, including QB Mark Rypien and K Chip Lohmiller, who engaged in a hockey shootout after the second period. Rypien won, 8-7. . . . Last night's sellout was the sixth of the season for the Capitals at the Capital Centre. . . . The Capitals have the best road record (14-7-2) in the NHL. Washington will go on a 3-game road trip beginning tomorrow in Chicago and visit St. Louis and Los Angeles before returning home. . . . The next home game will be Jan. 22 against the U.S. Olympic team.
Los Angeles ..2 ..0 ..2 .. .. 4
Washington .. 1 ..3 ..3 .. .. 7
First period--1, Los Angeles, Robitaille 20 (Robinson, Granato), 2:21. 2, Los Angeles, Blake 4 (Gretzky, Robitaille), 6:21 (pp). 3, Washington, Burridge 16 (Khristich, Hatcher), 13:47 (pp). Penalties--Iafrate, Was (holding), 4:54; Blake, LA (holding), 12:41; Kypreos, Was (slashing), 16:06; Robinson, LA (hooking), 19:50; Hatcher, Was (high-sticking), 19:57.
Second period--4, Washington, Hatcher 10 (Johansson, Burridge), 10:03 (pp). 5, Washington, Hatcher 11 (Miller, Langway), 18:31 (sh). 6, Washington, Ridley 17 (Miller, Hatcher), 18:49 (sh). Penalties--Taylor, LA (high-sticking), 2:56; Johansson, Was (high-sticking), 2:56; Benning, LA, double minor (holding, roughing), 8:38; Krygier, Was (holding), 12:46; Iafrate, Was (slashing), 18:06; Millen, LA (interference), 19:18; Benning, LA (cross-checking), 20:00.
Third period--7, Washington, Khristich 20 (Burridge, Hunter), 1:05 (pp). 8, Washington, Druce 7 (Bondra, Iafrate), 8:49. 9, Los Angeles, Kudelski 15 (Millen, Blake), 12:28. 10, Los Angeles, Blake 5 (Kurri, Gretzky), 13:34 (pp). 11, Washington, Johansson 10 (Burridge, Pivonka), 18:09 (sh). Penalties--Granato, LA, double minor (high-sticking, roughing), 8:23; Lalor, Was, double minor (roughing), 8:23; Hatcher, Was (hooking), 13:18; Ridley, Was (holding), 16:25.
Shots on goal--Los Angeles 14-5-7--26. Washington 16-15-10--41. Power-play opportunities--Los Angeles 2 of 7; Washington 3 of 6. Goalies--Los Angeles, Hrudey, 9-7-6 (41 shots-34 saves). Washington, Beaupre, 15-8-1 (26-22). A--18,130. Referee--Paul Stewart. Linesmen--Gordon Broseker, Mark Pare.