Following Tuesday night’s gutsy come-from-behind 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings, Barry Trotz could have raved about the play of Philipp Grubauer (39 saves), the clutch performance of Justin Williams (game-winning assist) or the triumphant return of defenseman Brooks Orpik (five hits, 1 assist, plus-1 in 16:43 of ice time).
Instead, Trotz harped on how he had to call a timeout late in the second period to prod his players to play dump-and-chase, grind-it-out hockey against a team that won two of the last four Stanley Cups by playing dump-and-chase, grind-it-out hockey.
“I was just trying to get everyone’s attention,” Trotz said, accusing his team of playing “easy and light” in the first period. “We needed to start playing north.
“I used the term during the playoffs last year. We didn’t want to go through that game, we wanted to go around it. Once we decided we had to go through the game I thought we were a much better hockey team.”
Trailing 1-0 late in the second period, Andre Burakovsky took his coach’s advice and drove the lane to redirect a hard pass from Dmitry Orlov past Jonathan Quick for his 12th goal of the season.
“We talked about it between the first and second period, that we need to get more bodies to the net,” said Burakovsky, who has 17 points in his last 14 games. “I was just trying to crash the net and obviously it was a sick pass from Orlov and he just hit my stick. The only thing I had to do was hold my stick on the ice.”
The Caps outshot the Kings 12-9 in the third period and netted the game-winner with 2:02 remaining when Williams found Evgeny Kuznetsov at the side of the net for a slam dunk.
“it’s tough to miss him when he’s standing right in front of the net,” Williams said of his 21st assist of the season. “I tried to get it over there as quick as possible and give him an empty net because he gave me one earlier that I couldn’t convert on.”
Kuznetsov celebrated with a goofy twirl of his glove and wave to fans behind the glass.
“It was just emotion,” Kuznetsov said of his 16th goal. “It happens, you can’t control that.”
Despite getting outplayed for most of two periods, the Caps (41-10-4, 86 points) said they were happy to get out of Verizon Center with two points in regulation, improving their record to 15-1-1 in their last 17 games in Chinatown.
“We were kind of excited to play against these guys,” Burakovsky said. “They already got two Cups and we’ve got none. We’re trying to be the best team in the league and if we want to be the best we have to take out the best. It felt like a playoff game. It was a fast game and we battled it through and had a big two points.”