DETROIT — Michael Latta knew the scouting report. Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard likes to come out and challenge shooters, cutting down angles but that it leaves him vulnerable to second-chance opportunities.
So when he was put out for a shift with third-line wingers Jason Chimera and Joel Ward in the third period and the puck was played back out to the point he had one destination in mind.
“I just thought, ‘Get in front of the goalie’. He comes out and charges the puck a lot so, when Wardo put it back to the D I just thought get to the net and hope,” Latta said. “It bounced right on my stick. I’ll take a lot of those.”
Latta recorded his first career NHL goal with 8 minutes 6 seconds gone in the third period at Joe Louis Arena Friday night to tie the game as Washington went on to capture a 4-3 shootout win against the Red Wings. Making it even better was that Latta’s parents were in the crowd, having made the three-hour trip from St. Clements, Ontario.
“It was definitely nice to get it when it mattered so much, not a 7-0 game,” Latta, 22, said. “It was nice that my parents and some friends were down. It was great, it felt really nice to get it win and keep going.”
The goal was Latta’s third NHL point. He recorded assists against Phoenix and Florida, not to mention a nice milestone for the rookie center to hit in only his 10th career NHL game. Acquired from Nashville along with Martin Erat at the trade deadline last spring, the Capitals have been impressed with Latta’s sandpaper style and the gritty element he brings to the lineup even in limited ice time.
“He’s doing what he’s supposed to do. He doesn’t get a lot of minutes,” Coach Adam Oates said. “He’s reliable with the puck, he’s obviously a tough kid and he’s learning his way still, but he does a lot of good things on the defensive side of it and that’s all we’re asking from him right now.”
Here’s the goal.