After watching the Capitals’ opener from the press box as a healthy scratch, Marcus Johansson told reporters that he didn’t want to repeat the experience. When he got in the lineup Monday night against Tampa Bay, Johansson backed up his words with a strong demonstration of what he can do when on his game.
From the start it was clear Johansson wanted to prove that he deserved a spot in the lineup. He scored Washington’s first goal of the game on a hustle play when he poked the puck away from Dwayne Roloson’s grasp, then finished with a wraparound to make it 1-1 early in the first period.
He added an assist, while being cross checked by Ryan Malone, on Troy Brouwer’s tally. By game’s end in 15:41, he had four shots on goal and two hits.
“I just try to play the best I can every night,” Johansson said. “The whole team played most of the game we played good, and then it’s easier to play good yourself. I think it’s fun to play and you know it’s fun when we work hard and when we work as a team.”
While Johansson was modest, his impressive response to being scratched didn’t go unnoticed by his older teammates.
“I talked to him on the bench and said that was one of the best games I’ve seen him play. He was hitting, he was skating, he was shooting,” Jason Chimera said. “That was maybe one of the best games he’s played as a pro. I told him I was proud of him on the bench because he deserved it. He didn’t want to be sitting there. He’s a good player. And he shouldn’t be sitting. He proved it tonight by playing such a good game. Like I said, I told I was proud of him on the bench. It was a great night for him.”
Johansson also drew a pair of penalties at key moments by keeping his feet moving and working his way through the Lightning, forcing them to take him down or risk a scoring chance.
“It happens sometimes, if you work hard it’s going to happen you know,” Johansson said. “You’re going to get penalties. They’re going to have to pull you down or drag you down. So I think there was a lot of us that got a lot of penalties, it’s a good thing though.”
Coach Bruce Boudreau said that the response from Johansson was precisely what he wanted out of the second-year center. He was glad to see the 21-year-old take on the “I’ll show them” approach because, as all players know, there’s another option that they can take when a coach sends a message — pouting instead of working.
“When I was young I was pouting for days when you get benched by a team,” Chimera said. “He bounced back pretty good. He wasn’t happy about getting sent to the bench, but he had a good attitude, he worked hard in practice. He came out tonight with a little piss and vinegar.”