Capitals

For Coach: Oshie's emotional performance rises above ugliness of game

Capitals
T.J. Oshie

A beautiful moment managed to rise above the ugliness of Wednesday's game between the Capitals and New York Rangers. In a game that featured a line brawl off the opening faceoff and 141 total penalty minutes, the story of the night was T.J. Oshie who scored a hat trick in his first game back after the death of his father.

Tim Oshie, or "Coach Osh" as he was affectionately known, was no stranger to the Caps over the years. He and Oshie shared a close relationship and their celebration together after winning the Stanley Cup was one of the highlights of the night back in 2018.

"I think over the years a lot of us guys know him well and he is a great guy, he’s got a lot of stories and he’s just a fun guy to have around," Nicklas Backstrom said. "Yeah, to say we know him, we are proud of that."

Coach, however, was battling Alzheimer's and died at the age of 56, causing Oshie to miss Monday's game. But Oshie was not going to miss this one on Wednesday.

"He told everybody he was coming back, he would be back last night," head coach Peter Laviolette said. "He got into town and there was no way he wasn't playing tonight."

To support Oshie, the team wore "Coach" decals on their helmets.

"Obviously that sticker, anything we can do to support and be here for T.J. and his family, I think, that is what teams do," Backstrom said. "We stick together and we are a family – all of us. Anything we can do to support and be there for them, we are going to do it.”

 

Oshie returned just in time for a rematch with the Rangers who were out for blood after Monday's game. New York felt Wilson crossed the line during a scrum on Monday in which he engaged Pavel Buchnevich and Artemi Panarin. When he was issued only a fine, however, the Rangers decided to try to settle the issue on the ice Wednesday.

There were three fights off the opening draw and six fights in the first period. Oshie, however, rose above it to lead the team to the win in a hat trick performance.

"A very special night," Backstrom said. "[Oshie] is going through some rough times right now and he is such a strong guy, came back and played tonight and honestly I couldn’t be happier for him that he scored three goals tonight and was the big game-changer tonight. We are all so proud of him and we are trying to support him as best as we can.”

"It is such an emotional night for T.J.," Nic Dowd said. "He has been such a good leader for our team and we are trying to be there for him and take care of him and he ends up taking care of us and leading us to win the game.”

Oshie opened the scoring in the second period as he broke the puck into the offensive zone for a short odd-man break and called his own number, beating Rangers goalie Alexandar Georgiev through the five-hole

Later in the second, Oshie deflected a shot on net that Georgiev managed to stop, but Oshie beat him with the rebound.

Oshie celebrated both goals like he would any other game. When he netted an empty-netter for the hat trick, however, that's when the emotions started to come out both for him and for his team.

Oshie was mobbed by his teammates on the ice after the goal and embraced by several on the bench, including Backstrom.

"I saw he got emotional there at the end, which was understandable," Backstrom said. "I felt like he needed a hug. I think, I told him like, ‘You are the strongest person I know.’ It’s, first of all, it’s impressive that he actually played today I think and how he led the way. It’s got to be so tough. I can only imagine. So, yeah as I said earlier, we are a family. We are in this together. His loss is everyone’s loss. We feel for him.”

 

Oshie's performance brought to mind memories of other emotional performances in sports such as Brett Favre's Monday Night Football game in 2003.

One day after the death of his father, Favre threw for 399 yards and four touchdowns on Monday Night Football in one of the best games of his career. Then there was Michael Jordan winning a championship on Father's Day after the death of his father in 1993 and collapsing on the floor in the locker room after the game.

If you don't think Oshie's night ranks with either Favre's or Jordan's, you're missing the point. The point is not to rank them, but to acknowledge what these athletes were able to do in the face of personal tragedy.

There will be a lot of talk about the fights and the physicality of Wednesday's game, but that should not overshadow what Oshie was able to do. His hat trick performance is a moment worth celebrating because of what it meant.

This one was for Coach Osh.

"Pretty spectacular," Laviolette said. "To go through what he went through and to want to be back here, get with his teammates and play and to play a game for Coach and the game that he played, outstanding. It says a lot about him and what he means to this team."