WASHINGTON – When the Capitals need a goal, they turn to Alex Ovechkin. When they need a save, they turn to Darcy Kuemper. And when they need an energy boost to snap a six-game losing streak, they turn to T.J. Oshie.
Oshie was all over the ice in the Capitals’ 6-3 win over the New York Rangers on Saturday, scoring two goals with an assist and a fighting minor for his first career Gordie Howe hat trick. His energy was something head coach Peter Laviolette pointed to throughout the team’s skid, calling for his teammates to feed off him.
That proved to be the case Saturday when Oshie set the tone with a goal in the first five minutes before laying out Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren with a hit that incited his fight with center Barclay Goodrow.
“His physicality, his offense, you could see it in his strides and his purpose on the ice,” Laviolette said in his postgame press conference. “He was really good.”
After Oshie scored his second goal in the second to put the Capitals ahead 2-1, the rest of the team got going to the tune of a four-goal period — their first since Jan. 5 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Capitals and Rangers have built a heated rivalry over the years, but the home team showed with its aggressiveness that it wanted this one more.
“Sometimes it’s one of those games, divisional opponent coming in and big rivalry, emotional game, sometimes those are the ones that a team comes together and we showed up ready to play,” right wing Tom Wilson said. “That can be a momentum builder. So we just gotta keep moving forward here in the right direction, but that was a great effort.”
“It’s just one of those games we weren’t gonna be denied.”
The Capitals face many questions about how far this team can go in 2022-23. Though they stopped their skid, the losing streak allowed several teams to surpass them in the standings. They also just lost two staples of their everyday lineup after trading defenseman Dmitry Orlov and right wing Garnet Hathaway to the Boston Bruins.
Saturday’s win didn’t answer those questions, but it did provide the Capitals with a glimpse of what they’re capable of when they play with that level of energy. Washington had every reason to let their recent struggles and emotional departures affect their focus against New York. With Oshie leading the way, they locked in and delivered an emphatic performance against a team entrenched in playoff position.
“I’ve never been part of a six-games losing streak and it sucks,” center Evgeny Kuznetsov said. “It sucks to come back every morning and see guys kind of down. We care about each other and we worry about that so nobody wants to be in that position but every day I saw the guys sticking together. We was trying to stay positive. We will always stay together in this locker room and when you see that you know one day you’re gonna break that and there will be opportunities to win the game.”