Thursday's game was full of fun moments for Capitals fans as Washington stormed back from a 3-0 deficit against the New York Islanders to win 6-3. Perhaps the best moment of all, however, came after Zdeno Chara's goal.
Chara scored his first goal as a Capital on Thursday as he fired a blistering slap shot from the point that found the back of the net. Being on the point, Chara was near the bench and turned to celebrate with the team. There, he was mobbed by his teammates in a wild celebration normally reserved for overtime winners or huge milestones, not a two-goal lead in the second period.
"I returned to the bench to the guys right away because I just wanted to share that joy and excitement with them," Chara said.
He added, "I obviously didn't see it from the views that you guys had but I can't [wait to] watch it."
"When a guy like that comes to give you a bear hug, you give it back to him," Conor Sheary said. "So I think when he came to the bench, we were all super excited for him."
The moment was a reflection of how Chara has been embraced by his new teammates already despite signing with Washington less than a month ago.
"I think he obviously brings such a presence and leadership in the room and I think for him to get that first one was pretty exciting," Sheary said.
Chara stunned the hockey world when he signed with Washington in the offseason. Not content with a reserve role, Chara elected to leave Boston where he had played and served as captain for 14 seasons.
Chara's transition to the Caps has been relatively seamless. Despite being 43 years old, he is averaging just over 20 minutes of ice time per game and has been a steadying influence on the blue line and the penalty kill.
A lot of that has to do not just with the player, but also with how the team has embraced him.
"They really did an amazing job too, welcoming me and making that transition as easy, as simple as possible for me," Chara said. "So I owe it to them and can't thank them enough to accept me in the group and welcome me like they did."
Head coach Peter Laviolette got a close-up view of the celebration. He called it "awesome" and said it reflected how close the team is already despite being early into the season.
"Those things I think are really good for a team," Laviolette said. "I think they can help galvanize a team. Not everybody is new but there's a lot of new pieces and so our team is new. Comebacks and adversity and a moment like that, everybody is pulling for Z to be the great player that he is. And tonight I thought he had an awesome game, both defensively and offensively. So when that moment [arrived] his teammates, they let him know. It was pretty awesome. I said after the game that it was one the coolest things I've seen in a while with regard to a teammate."
The way in which the Capitals have been able to come together has been reflected in the record. Washington is 5-0-3 and has yet to lose in regulation. In a four-game stretch without Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov and Ilya Samsonov all out on the NHL's COVID-19 protocol-related absence list, the Caps have earned seven out of a possible eight points including two wins against the Islanders, the team that eliminated Washington so easily in the 2020 postseason.
"It's a great group of guys," Chara said. "We're having fun, we're working hard and we're pushing each other to be better. That's what it's all about."