As game after game passed by without Jason Chimera scoring a goal, Coach Adam Oates offered encouragement to the veteran forward. He saw Chimera’s overall game improving as he contributed to more even-strength chances and tried to stress patience.
He even talked to the 33-year-old winger before the Capitals faced off against the Sabres on Sunday night.
“I told him in the game against Boston we had 11 chances 5-on-5 and he was involved in six of them,” Oates said. “That means you’re doing some good things and you’re involved in the game.”
That faith meant something to Chimera.
“It reassures you,” Chimera said. “It hasn’t been for lack of trying, hasn’t been for a lack of shooting that’s for sure. I was just snakebitten a bit, maybe that’s an understatement. When he comes to you and says ‘You’re playing well. It’s going to go in, keep it up.’”
Oates’s confidence that Chimera would cash in eventually was proven right 9 minutes and 45 seconds into the second period of Washington’s 5-3 win over the Sabres.
Chimera jumped off the bench for a line change and drove toward the net, unnoticed by the Buffalo defense. Troy Brouwer was behind the Sabres net retrieving the puck and fending off defenseman Mike Weber when Chimera started yelling in order to make his presence known. Brouwer made a backhanded pass in front just as Chimera reached the blue paint and knocked the puck past Ryan Miller for a 3-1 lead.
Chimera put his arms in the air and looked up in sheer relief after a 27-game goal scoring drought this season. His last regular season goal came on April 2, 2012 against Tampa Bay while his last goal of any variety was May 9, 2012 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Rangers.
“It was coming. I felt I had been playing pretty good, and it wasn’t one of those things where you were playing terrible and not getting rewarded,” Chimera said. “You’ve just got to keep going. I scored 20 goals last year, and it’s not like I scored 20 goals 10 years ago. It was just last year. You know you’ve still got it in you and you’ve got to keep going.”
The rest of the Capitals may have been even happier than Chimera himself to see the wily veteran finally light the lamp.
“The guys were really pumped up for him,” said linemate Mathieu Perreault. “He’s been working so hard and he’s been talking about it a lot since he hasn’t scored, obviously. All the guys are really happy for him.”
Said Alex Ovechkin: “Finally. Almost he forget how to celebrate a goal so he was kind of, ‘Aw I scored a goal finally’. Everybody happy for him. He work hard, he try to do his best and sometimes he have great chance to score but luck was not on his side and today he score goal. I hope it’s turning the right way for us and for him.”
His teammates understand how tough it is to go through that kind of drought, they’ve all been there, but there was also a little good-natured teasing after the goal – Mike Ribeiro went and retrieved the puck for him.
Chimera joked earlier in the week that perhaps he would burn some incense or change something up about his daily routine to snap the streak. He didn’t make any sweeping changes prior to Sunday, though.
“Well, I think someone put Jobu in my stall one game and it was pretty funny, and they light some incense, but it’s – no, nothing differently,” Chimera said with a laugh. “I parked in a different spot today when I got home in my driveway, so maybe that helped out. That was the only thing I did differently.”