ARLINGTON—There wasn’t much the Capitals liked about their 4-3 loss to the Islanders on Tuesday night.
There was, however, one thing they didn't mind so much: the fact that they scored two goals on rebounds and another on the doorstep.
They were exactly the type of goals Alex Ovechkin and Co. haven’t scored often enough over the years, particular in the playoffs.
They were also the kinds of goals they've been working to produce more consistently in recent practices.
“That’s how you score goals in this league,” Justin Williams said Wednesday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “They’re not all going to be pretty.”
Williams scored his sixth goal in the past nine games in that fashion against the Isles. The 16-year veteran crashed the net and, with New York defenseman Nick Leddy draped all over him, managed to get just enough of his stick blade on the puck to steer it into the net.
Whether it’s screening a goalie, tussling with a defender in front or finishing a cross crease pass, no one on the Caps has been better at creating a consistent net front presence this season than Williams.
“It’s very important to have that ability as a team to score in different ways and different situations and not just rely on a power play or a great play by someone,” said Williams, who now has eight goals after a sluggish start to the campaign. “It’s getting to the net, getting a greasy one, something off your butt and in. Those are like a coach’s dream goal that we need to take pride in, as well.”
Ovechkin got in on the act, too. With the Capitals needing an equalizer early in the third period, Evgeny Kuznetsov dished to Williams, who fired a shot off of Jaroslav Halak’s far pad.
The puck went right to the Caps’ captain, who rattled it in off the post and crossbar for another second-chance goal.
Washington’s third goal followed a similar script. Andre Burakovsky got his second tally in three games with 6:55 left to play after racing to the net. At the top of the blue paint, he tapped in a touch pass from Jay Beagle to cut their deficit to a single goal.
They couldn't get any closer, but Burakovsky said he hopes the manner in which the three goals were scored marks the start of something for the Caps, who are 1-2-1 in their last four games.
“That’s what I learned while I was sitting out and watching,” the 21-year-old said. “Ninety-percent of all the goals actually happen right in front. Sorta like my goal [against the Islanders]. Look at the Islanders’ goals, too. It was kind of the same. They were right in front of the net and it happened.”
Burakovsky added: “I’ve been watching what I can do to get more opportunities and better opportunities. And one of them is when one of our guys has the puck on the boards, I’m just going to go straight through the middle and to the net. That’s kind of what happened yesterday, Beags went to the middle, I came in hard behind him and the puck was eventually coming there. And it came to me. It was harder to miss than to score. A goal is a goal.”
In recent weeks, Trotz has incorporated more drills into his practice plans aimed at creating second-chance goals. In one of the drills, the first forward into the zone fires the puck on goal, the second forward crashes net and a defenseman enters third, also looking to finish a rebound.
Burakovsky said the practice reps help, but scoring greasy goals also requires a different mentality—and there’s still some work to be done in that department.
“We’ve been working on it for a while,” Burakovsky said. “We’ve gotten a little bit better, but I still think we can go to the net a lot harder.”
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