The Washington Times - November 22, 2011, 01:58AM

It floated over the Capitals’ offensive zone – not low enough to be eye-to-eye with players but low enough for Coyotes Jason LaBarbera to take an unsuccessful stab at knocking it down.

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One red balloon – 98 short of being a song by Nena – was enough to cause a stir among Caps fans and those on the ice. The officials eventually corralled it from the nearby airspace and the game moved on, but like so many coincidental things in the past, the events of the game made it seem of some importance.

Fans called it a rally balloon, and multiple parody Twitter accounts were created for it. The Caps had just gotten on the board shortly before, on a John Carlson goal that set a strange series of events into action.

“It was quiet,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “But you know what, they were probably sitting on their hands going, ‘Ut oh, what’s going to happen next?’ ”

What happened next was the appearance of a stray red balloon, possibly from a Chick-Fil-A promotion that took place at Verizon Center. Minutes later, Cody Eakin scored to tie things up.

Eakin seemed surprised when he was asked about the balloon.

“I have no idea,” the 20-year-old center said. “Yeah, I noticed it, but I don’t’ know.”

Then prompted about the fact that he, a red-headed hockey player, scored after the appearance of a red balloon, Eakin smiled.

“It’s pretty wild, but I guess it’s right time, right place,” he said.

The Caps went on to wrap up a 4-3 victory, ensuring at least a minor niche piece of cult fame for a certain red rally balloon.

(The balloon was not available for comment)