WASHINGTON — Throughout the Caps' three-game losing skid, one message was repeated over and over again to the team: get to the front of the net. An offense that relied too much on skill in the past had become stagnant as players began overthinking and looking for the pretty play rather than the simple one. Head coach Barry Trotz wanted the offense to simplify its approach.
Marcus Johansson did and ended up with two critical goals, the game-tying tally and the game-winner in overtime, to lead the Caps to the win over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday.
"If you stay with it and you go to the net, I think a lot of the times it's going to bounce your way in the end," Johansson said.
Getting to the net is nothing new for the veteran forward. Since Trotz came to Washington, Johansson has clearly shifted his game. He's come a long way from the winger who refused to shoot next to Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.
With 11 goals, Johansson sits just one shy of Ovechkin for the team lead. He's also tied for second on the team in points with 18.
"I think Marcus out of the chute was going to the net a little bit more, he was shooting," Trotz said.
Facing a 2-1 deficit in the third period and a four-game losing streak, Johansson went to the front of the net right off the faceoff and was there to deflect in a point shot from John Carlson to tie the game.
There was no extra pass, no overthinking, just simple hockey and a clean deflection.
"Whatever way you get it, it's nice especially when you're down a goal and to get back in the game and it's something you want to do for your teammates," Johansson said.
Johansson is a player who boasts a lot of skill and tons of speed. Yet, it's those dirty goals that we've come to expect as he has seemingly become the model for the simplified game Trotz is preaching.
"I think all [Johansson's] goals are in the house that everybody talks about, close to the net," Trotz said. "If guys aren't scoring, you're probably, not going to find them there."
MORE CAPITALS: MARCUS JOHANSSON WINS IT IN OT FOR CAPITALS VS. SABRES