With 16 minutes and 20 seconds gone from the first period against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night, the Capitals took a lead on one of the prettier goals in recent memory for a club that's been adapting to a more defensive style.
The goal -- a nifty backhand shot -- was scored by Jay Beagle, on recall from the American Hockey League's Hershey Bears, in his seventh contest with the Capitals this season. It was his second goal in four games and the reward for a mucking effort by some of Washington's grinding forwards, Beagle included, down below the goal line.
After the contest, Coach Bruce Boudreau said Beagle was "making a great bid" to remain in Washington. The Capitals recalled Beagle on Dec. 15 prior to Washington's contest against Anaheim. He didn't play much in his first two contests (less than 15 minutes combined) and was a healthy scratch against Ottawa, but in the four contests since then, he's consistently brought energy and added spunk to the Capitals' attack.
When Matt Bradley suffered a broken finger in the middle of the eventual 5-1 win over New Jersey, it presented an opportunity not often available to Beagle since he joined the organization in 2008 -- a chance to make the lineup on a regular basis.
"It's a real deep team on forward and D; we're deep everywhere, and it's been a really good team ever since I've been in the organization," Beagle said. "So to crack the lineup is really hard but it gives you something to work for and get better for every day... I'm just trying to be kind of like a power forward, grind it down low and get energy and things going from there."
In addition to the goal against Montreal, Beagle and his linemates -- Jason Chimera and Eric Fehr -- seemed to spend a good chunk of their time in the Montreal zone. They embraced the dump-and-chase mentality displayed by the Capitals last night and worked diligently to scrape pucks into their possession along the boards, or for faceoff wins.
On a night where the Capitals' centermen won 36 of 52 faceoffs, Beagle won 7 of 11 in 9:52 of ice time. Beagle also earned the team's hard hat after the victory, as his contributions have not gone unnoticed by the rest of his teammates.
It's been a steady progression for Beagle since he was recalled, and over the past few games it's also become clear that the right wing/center has earned the trust and confidence of the Capitals' coaching staff. One of the regular penalty killers for the Bears, Beagle has played at least 1:37 while shorthanded in each of the past three games for the Capitals. He skated 2:46 while killing penalties in a high-pressure game against the Penguins last week.
"We knew he could do the job," Boudreau said earlier this week of putting Beagle on the penalty kill. "I t's just a matter of putting him in and letting him get confidence doing the job. He's got a really good stick, he's determined, he's tireless and he blocks shots, so there are a lot of good things about him and he takes direction really well."
Beagle said he is content to do whatever is asked of him, but he takes particular pride in being among those entrusted to kill penalties.
"It definitely feels good. That's what I've been working on in the minors," Beagle said. "I kill a lot down there, so it's something that I'm comfortable with. It's obviously a little bit different killing against [Sidney] Crosby and [Evgeni] Malkin, but it's something that I look forward to and the challenge -- it's a good learning experience. It definitely makes you better."