Adam Oates has faith. The Washington Capitals’ head coach stood cool, calm and collected behind a bench of struggling men for five hockey games with nothing but a positive outlook and tons of patience. That patience paid off Monday evening as his players clinched their first regulation win against the Edmonton Oilers, their second win of the season.
The Caps put on an exhilarating show at home in which most of the goal horns erupted in the second period, where 3 back-to-back goals were scored by three different Capitals in just 3:55.
The home team was stuck in their own zone for the predominance of the first period, struggling to create offense, and giving up a goal to former Washington Capital, Boyd Gordon with 10:52 remaining. Three minutes later we watched as Mike Green discovered a dramatic new way to make a line change after what he thought would be a big check but glanced it off and ended up toppling into his own bench, practically doing a handstand. The Caps responded about four minutes after Gordon’s goal by a clearing attempt picked off at the blue line by Steve Oleksy. Oleksy sauced a pass to Brooks Laich who took a wrist shot which slid between Edmonton goaltender, Jason LaBarbera’s skates at 13:41. Laich recorded his first goal of the season, tying the game up at 1. With a rejuvenated mindset, the Caps finished out the first period much stronger than they had started it.
With the second period underway, the Caps began their offensive tear. Taking advantage of the power play came Joel Ward with a quick snap shot off a feed from Nick Backstrom at 10:06 which put the Caps ahead for the first time in the game. Ovechkin was the next to strike in the slot, sending a wrister to the twine at 13:18. At this point, the Caps had finally found the momentum they had been lacking in the previous three games. The boys in red were making quick, crisp, and blade to blade passes with an undaunted speed. Back on the man-advantage, Troy Brouwer scored himself his first goal of the season on his daughter’s birthday, off a precise tic-tack toe passing play from Backstrom to Grabovski to Brouwer who was positioned in the slot and secured the score at 4-1.
A brawl broke out in the final period when Ovechkin delivered a hit on right wing, Mike Brown, which was the gateway for the pile up of players who wound up on the ice just seconds later. Ovechkin received an interference minor and found himself sitting in the sin bin alongside defensemen Mike Green and Karl Alzner with Luke Gazdic in the penalty box beside. Will Acton went on to score the Oilers’ second and last goal of the game at 18:18, the first of his NHL career.
This thriller of a game left Caps fans with big smiles on their faces and hopeful that their team can stay in the win column. The chemistry of the lines that Oates has been building up finally began to shine through during their sixth game. Holtby got his first save, Ovechkin recorded his sixth goal in six games, Ward, Brouwer, and Laich all celebrated their first goals of the season and unsung hero, Nick Backstrom had an assist in three of the four goals Washington tallied. This well-executed game was everything that the Caps needed and had hoped for to boost their confidence and start a tear on their season in the new Metropolitan division. With Oates’ instruction and encouragement, tight defense and consistent goaltending along with steady domination in the offensive zone, the Caps will be on their way to the top.
The Capitals will host the New York Rangers for NBCSN’s Rivalry Night on Wednesday. This Saturday, the Columbus Blue Jackets will be in town for the last game in the Caps’ home stand before they take off for a five-game road trip against the Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks and Philadelphia Flyers.