Daniel Winnik’s goal entering this season was to chip in more offensively for the Capitals.
And with a pair of goals in Saturday's 2-1 win over the Islanders, the fourth line winger is certainly off to a solid start.
In fact, he's tied for the team lead in goals, with two, after two games.
“We met after the season and I said, 'I think you’re a good penalty killer,'” Coach Barry Trotz said. “'I think you can really help us. I think you’ve got some veteran savvy. But we’re going to need some offense out of you. I think you’re capable of it and don’t forget that part of the game.' I think in his head he just wanted to play defense and penalty kill and that was the role he was given I think in Toronto and he didn’t get much production last year.”
Last season, Winnik scored two goals in 20 regular season games for the Capitals after being acquired from the Maple Leafs at the trade deadline. And just like Saturday's breakout, both of those goals came in the same game (March 18th vs. the Predators).
On Winnik’s first goal against the Islanders, the 6 foot 2, 206-pounder parked himself in front of Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss and redirected a point shot from John Carlson. On his second strike, the 31-year-old poked the puck ahead to himself, blew past defenseman Travis Hamonic, who lost an edge as he pivoted, and then deked Greiss out of his skates. It was a highlight reel goal for a grinder who's more known for his defense.
“I thought they had a hard time handling our size and our speed as a line,” Winnik said.
As for the fourth line’s big game, Winnik credited the chemistry he forged with Jay Beagle and Tom Wilson late last season.
“It helps a lot,” Winnik said. “When you’re around guys who talk a lot, especially the [center] you’re playing with a lot. Me and Beags talk about our game a lot about our game and what we’re trying to do out there”
Winnik’s offensive outburst underscored an outstanding game by the fourth line overall. Not only did the unit produce both goals, it also shut down John Tavares' line.
“It’s something all three of us have done throughout our careers,” Winnik said. “Beags is a great shutdown guy. It’s a role I’ve had a lot throughout my career. We like that challenge and it’s nice when you can chip in offensively.”
Beagle recorded his first point—a secondary assist—on Winnik’s first tally.
“Going into the offseason we talked and said we wanted to be more offensive,” Beagle said. “Playing together last year at the end helped because coming into it, you already felt like you had that chemistry.”
Interestingly, Saturday's performance came one game after the fourth line saw only 7:30 of ice time in a 3-2 shootout loss in Pittsburgh.
“Those games are going to happen like that first game,” Beagle added. “So you just got to be ready when the line is called and get out there and try to make an impact on the game, and that’s what we did. Now we want to try to build off of this game. We want to make an impact as a fourth line. We want to be a good fourth line. And this is a start.”
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