On April 28, 2009, Sergei Fedorov scored one of the biggest goals in Capitals franchise history. Alex Ovechkin was drafted in 2004 and although he completely turned the franchise's fortunes around, it didn't happen overnight. In the Ovechkin era, Washington did not reach the playoffs until 2008. In 2009, they went down to the New York Rangers 3-1 in the first round, but rallied to force a Game 7. In that game, Fedorov broke a 1-1 tie with less than five minutes remaining to give the Caps their first series victory since 1998. And it almost didn't happen.
NBC Sports Washington replayed Game 7 on Monday as part of its Capitals Greatest Hits Series. Former Capitals forward Matt Bradley, who provided the assist on Fedorov's goal, joined Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin on the broadcast to break down the game. On it, he revealed that he almost didn't give Fedorov the play that led to the goal.
With the Caps defending, Brandon Dubinsky missed a shot wide of the net that hit off the backboards and curled around to the half wall. Bradley went to retrieve it with Nik Antropov closing in behind him. Bradley could not have carried the puck out without getting hit and probably turning it over, but he had a clear lane to get the puck out of the zone.
"My first instinct was to chip it off the wall," Bradley said.
Chipping the puck out would have been the safe play and, as a fourth-liner, that was Bradley's biggest concern. Chip the puck out, relieve the pressure. But that's not what he did. Instead, he did not play it safe and delivered a no-look backhand pass in his own zone when he heard Fedorov calling for it.
"I knew he was there," Bradley said. "I gave it to him and he did the rest."
The pass launched Fedorov on the breakout which he took all the way to the other end of the ice before pulling up and firing a shot right into history. It's just a good thing Bradley decided not to play it safe.
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