With 48 games in 99 days, there’s not a lot of time to digest what happened in any single contest. So as we churn through this compressed Capitals season, I’ll be rounding up my thoughts and analysis of each game here. If you missed them, check out the game story from the come-from-behind 4-3 win over the Bruins and more on Eric Fehr’s game-winning goal.
>> There were times earlier this season that a three-goal deficit at the end of the first period would have spelled disaster for the Capitals. Tuesday night when faced with that challenge against the Boston Bruins, though, Washington rallied for a win over a tough opponent that, at the very least, gives it something to build off of.
“I’m hoping a lot. We didn’t give up at all today,” Fehr said. “We know how important it is to string some wins together and to come back against a team that’s good means a lot, and hopefully we can keep going.”
Coach Adam Oates said that part of the comeback may have been fueled by the Capitals’ knowledge that they hadn’t been completely outplayed in the first period. They were down three goals, but one came on a penalty shot and another was a power-play tally.
“Sometimes when you get behind, it’s how. You know what? Boston didn’t really do too much tonight early,” Oates said. “We had a good [first] period, and then, I think sometimes it’s easier to convince the guys that we did [last week] versus Philly, when, ‘Hey, c’mon, coach, we’re leaking oil. Who you kidding?’
“I think the guys felt that we’re still in the game,” Oates added. “It’s Boston. Nothing’s going to come easy. You’re gonna just have to get on at a time, and we got one pretty quick in the second, which helped us a little.”
Every two points is valuable for the Capitals but this particular victory is timely. Washington has won two straight, seven of its last 10 and its next two opponents are the last-place Florida Panthers and 10th place New York Islanders. Numerous players have talked about the importance of stringing a few wins together in order for the Capitals to take advantage of their March schedule, and there’s no time like the present.
>> While Fehr scored the game-winner, it was Wojtek Wolski who tied the game 13:55 into the third period at 3-3. In addition to evening things against the Bruins, it was Wolski’s first goal in 11 games since Feb. 1 against the Flyers.
Wolski’s slump had reached the point where Oates made him a healthy scratch Saturday against Winnipeg because he wanted the winger to take a step back and reflect upon his game. So to score against the Bruins in a game he likely wouldn’t have played in if Troy Brouwer had been well enough to play was significant for Wolski.
“I had so many chances in the last 10 games and missing open nets. It gets frustrating,” Wolski said. “It’s easy to kind of not do the work and just kind of shut down, but I’ve been trying to keep with the game plan, trying to come in early, trying to work hard, work on the boards, skate as much as I can. And I’m happy that it paid off.”
While Oates was glad that Wolski got on the scoresheet, he was happier that the winger played a better overall game. Wolski finished a plus-2 with two points (1g, 1a) in 18:57 against the Bruins.
“I’m obviously happy for him, but I thought he played a better hockey game. You know, he did the things that we ask,” Oates said. “The goal – that’s obviously big for us and big for him, but besides that we haven’t really – we don’t talk production. We talk play. You’ve got to play, and you know, there’s another team tonight that we played that they’re willing to win 1-0. You’ve got to play, and you know, it took us 62 minutes but we did.”
>> Also among the unusual suspects who contributed on the score sheet Tuesday night was rookie defenseman Tomas Kundratek, who has taken on additional minutes and responsibility whenever Mike Green hasn’t been in the lineup.
“I’m pretty happy about it. Even in the pregame skate Mikey came to me, Mike Green, and he’s like, ‘Kundy, you have to score the first one today,’” Kundratek said. “So I was like, ‘Thanks. I’ll try.’ And it went, so it’s pretty great feeling.”
The 23-year-old blue liner has steadily improved during his time with the Capitals this season, and against the Bruins he was second among defensemen with 23:02 of ice time in addition to finishing a plus-2 with a goal and an assist.
“He’s played good hockey, and another tough team he’s playing against. With Greenie out, it’s more minutes, and you’re throwing him to the wolves a little bit,” Oates said. “He handled it great. Him and Karl did a good job.”
>> Speaking of defenseman, Steve Oleksy had a solid outing in his first NHL game. He recorded a secondary assist, three blocked shots and a big hit on grizzled Bruins forward Shawn Thornton early.
Oleksey said Oates, assistant coach Calle Johansson as well as a few players pulled him aside Tuesday before the game to tell him not to worry about making his first NHL appearance. The words of encouragement meant a lot to Oleksy, and with his family watching after making the 11-hour trip to Verizon Center from Michigan, the debut was everything he had hoped for.
“It was unbelievable, especially the atmosphere in this building,” Oleksey said, adding that his hit on Thornton helped settle him down. “Definitely helped get the nerves out. It’s nice to get a hit like that early. You know, you feel pretty strong. The rest of your play feels pretty strong. Strong on the puck and strong around the net, which is huge for me in the game I try to play.”