Mike Richards thought the same thing 18,506 fans in Verizon Center were thinking -- that his first NHL goal since Jan. 3, 2015 was going to reversed on a coach’s challenge.
“I just figured that with my luck, it’d be disallowed,” Richards said after his first goal as a Capital stood up as the game-winner in a 3-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes.
Richards’ goal came on his fifth shot of the game, significant when you consider he had just eight shots in his first 14 games with the Caps.
“I thought I might not score ever again,” Richards said with a laugh. “I actually thought the goalie (Louis Domingue) had it and then the puck just popped out and somehow it ended up on my stick.”
Richards can thank Tom Wilson’s willingness to dig the puck out of the grasp of Domingue. He can also thank Wilson for ruining his goal celebration, which was essentially a scrum behind the Arizona net.
But after conference by the officials Richards’ goal stood up and the Capitals had a 3-1 lead.
“We all thought (the goal would be overturned) but we never said it,” Capitals teammate Justin Williams said. “Never give up ‘til you hear the whistle and that was certainly the definition of it.”
Once the goal was announced, the Verizon Center crowd rose as one to salute Richards, who spent the first three months of the season sitting at home in Kenora, wondering if another NHL team would give him an opportunity to resume his career.
“It was probably a really long summer for him and for sure it’s nice for him to get the game-winner,” Jason Chimera said. “He deserves it for sure. If anyone paid his dues this summer he did. He could have called it in any time and he wanted to play and he came back and it was good to see him get that.”
Richards admitted that his lost faceoff led to Connor Murphy’s goal midway through the period, but said the reception he received when he returned to the bench was special.
“It was nice to celebrate with the teammates,” he said. “They’ve been real supportive and it’s been a while since I scored a goal of any importance, so it was definitely nice and the ovation was pretty special, too.”
Capitals coach Barry Trotz said he was impressed with the treatment Richards received from the home crowd.
“I think they recognize what Richie has done in this league,” Trotz said. “He’s won a couple Cups. He went to war with Ovi early in his career and I think they respect that. He’s come to us and he’s playing with that same sort of fire that he’s known for and we’re happy he’s with us, that’s for sure.”
The Caps’ win was their ninth in 10 games and got them to 44 wins faster than any team in NHL history.
MORE CAPITALS: Richards' first goal lifts Caps over Coyotes 3-2