The pause in the NHL season in which we find ourselves offers us a chance to look back at the rich history, good and bad, of the Washington Capitals. Today we look at a record-setting performance from 31 years ago today.
Dino Ciccarelli had been a Capital for all of 11 days when he took the ice in Hartford, Connecticut, to face the Whalers. He recorded one goal over his first three games with his new team since arriving from the Minnesota North Stars, but he did give a peek of bigger things to come when he posted two goals in a 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens on St. Patrick’s Day in Washington.
The following night, the volcano erupted, and it did not take long for it to take place. Ciccarelli scored just 89 seconds into the game, with assists from Scott Stevens and Bengt-Ake Gustafsson to give the Caps a lead they would never relinquish. After a first period with no further scoring, Ciccarelli opened the second period scoring with a goal at the 5:21 mark. He completed the natural hat trick with a goal 16:37 into the period to give the Caps a 3-0 lead, the goal that would prove to be the game-winner.
His scoring was not over, though. Ciccarelli recorded an assist on Mike Ridley’s power play goal at the 17:49 mark of the second period, and then he assisted on Geoff Courtnall’s goal 3:18 into the third period to give him a hand on each of the Caps’ five goals to that point.
Hartford scored a pair of power play goals just over two minutes apart to cut into the Caps lead, but they extended it on a Michal Pivonka goal mid-way through the final frame, the only Capitals goal in which Ciccarelli would not participate on the evening (Mike Ridley and Rod Langway got the assists).
Ciccarelli jumped back onto the score sheet barely two minutes after the Pivonka goal with his fourth goal of the game 13:52 into the period. At the time, it was the ninth time in franchise history that a Capital recorded a game with four or more goals and the fourth straight time it was done on the road. He wrapped up his record-setting performance with an assist on a power play goal by Dale Hunter with 3:09 left in the contest to give the Caps their final 8-2 winning margin.
Although Ciccarelli would be shut out from scoring a goal in his next game, a 5-4 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, he would score single goals in each of his next five games to close the 1988-1989 regular season, giving him 12 goals in 11 games as a Capital in his first action with the club. He would go on to score four goals a second time – February 6, 1990, in 12-2 win over the Quebec Nordiques – and would score 112 goals in 223 games over four seasons as a Capital, a goal total that stands 27th in team history.
It would be almost 14 years before another player would match Ciccarelli’s seven-point output. That would be Jaromir Jagr, who did it on January 11, 2003 (3-4-7) in a 12-2 win over the Florida Panthers, the only instance of a Capital posting seven points in a game in Washington in team history.
Here’s more from the Washington Post on Ciccarelli’s gem, including this note from his new coach, the late, great Bryan Murray:
“Isn’t that why we traded for him?” asked Capitals Coach Bryan Murray. “That was a big night for him. It was a big career for some people. He’s around the net all the time. He doesn’t just look to score, but he finds other people deep around the net, too.”