Justin Williams and Mike Richards began their NHL careers in Philadelphia, won a pair of Stanley Cups together and signed free agent contracts with the Capitals six months apart, but that doesn’t mean they shared the same feelings about their return to Los Angeles Wednesday night to face the Kings.
Both Capitals were welcomed back to Staples Center with tribute videos, but afterward they had different reactions to those tributes, each of which ended with standing ovations.
“Any time you get a reaction like that you’re going to have some emotions,” said Williams, 34, who spent parts of seven seasons in L.A. and won the Conn Smythe.with the Kings two years ago. ”I’m not a stiff or a robot. It’s obviously nice to see, but after that it was just a standard hockey game that we’re trying to win, and come back to win with the poor start that we had.”
Richards, 31, raised his hand to acknowledge the crowd following his tribute video, then raised his stick in appreciation.
“I wasn’t really emotional,” he said. “It was nice and it was nice to be acknowledged. I enjoyed my time here. I had a lot of success, a lot of great years and a lot of great memories so it was definitely nice.”
Perhaps one reason for the understated reactions from Williams and Richards was the fact the videos came in a first period in qhich the Capitals fell behind 3-0. The Caps havce allowed their opponent to score first 36 times in 67 games. And although they own a record of 20-11-5 in those games, they know it’s a trend that needs addressing.
“Starts have been our Achilles’ heel lately,” said Williams, who picked up an assist on Dmitry Orlov’s game-tying goal in the third period. “It’s obviously something that we need to clean up.”
Richards was asked after the game what he’s learned most about the Capitals in his first 24 games with his third NHL team.
“We’re not great starters,” he said. “I guess we’re good closers, but we have to correct that. It’s not good to play like that. You can see how good we are when we play well, so that’s something that has to be corrected pretty quickly because the season is winding down and then the real hockey starts.”