Coach Adam Oates made an adjustment heading into overtime Tuesday night based on a gut instinct and decided to start the extra session with Mikhail Grabovski skating alongside Nicklas Backstrom.
Grabovski had just scored the tying goal late in regulation, a tally that was also the 100th of his career, and was zipping around the ice with confidence.
“Grabo scored a big goal, so I wanted to start him with Backy. Reward him,” Oates said. “You score a goal late, you’re flying — maybe we could get some sort of odd-man rush or maybe a little bouncing puck and he can take off. You get a feel and just take a shot.”
The move had an unexpected payoff, though, because pairing Backstrom with Grabovski meant that Alex Ovechkin would work with Marcus Johansson four-on-four and the latter duo combined for the game-winner in Washington’s 4-3 overtime victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Johansson skated the puck out of the defensive zone and up the left wing, where he fought through a check by Columbus defenseman James Wisniewski. The smooth skating forward cut toward center ice and fired a backhander. Sergei Bobrovsky made that initial save, but Ovechkin had stopped in the blue paint and was in perfect position to shoot the rebound past the defending Vezina Trophy winner.
“Jojo do great job fight through it and after I have to go to the net, stay and find the rebound,” Ovechkin said. “I got lucky. Puck bounce right to my stick.”
Said Oates: “Jojo did a great job on that rush and Ovi stopped in front and got rewarded for it. [If] he flies by, no chance there.”
It might not have been the player he intended to spark, but it worked out for the Capitals all the same.
Five thoughts on the win to follow Wednesday morning, but in the meantime here’s that game-winning goal.