As the Capitals’ spare defenseman, Taylor Chorney doesn’t get to play very often. In fact, Sunday’s 2-1 win over the Senators was just his seventh appearance of the season.
Which is exactly what made his third period goal—the game winner—so sweet for Chorney, his teammates and the coaching staff.
“Guys were cheering,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “We were all happy for him. There’s certain things guys do very well—scoring for Taylor is probably not one of them. So when he does get one, it’s special for everybody.”
Indeed, the goal was Chorney’s first since March 2, 2016, his second in 62 games as a member of the Caps and just his third in 130 career contests. Of those three goals, two are game winners.
And Chorney couldn’t have picked a better time to deliver another one.
Locked in a 1-1 battle, he took a pass from defensive partner Brooks Orpik less than three minutes into the final frame and fired the puck past Ottawa goalie Mike Condon to give the Caps a lead they would not relinquish.
Afterward, fellow defenseman Karl Alzner, who scored the Caps’ first goal, revealed that Chorney had called his own shot as the team returned to the ice for the start of the third period.
“I was just joking,” Corney said of telling his teammates that he felt a game-winner coming. “I wasn’t expecting to score, but I did. When we walked out, I said, ‘It would be nice to get the first of the year on a game-winner.’ It just worked out.”
Like everyone else in the dressing room, Alzner was excited to see the puck go in for team and, just as important, for Chorney.
“More than happy,” Alzner said. “Chore is unique. It’s a super-hard position to be in. He doesn’t get to play a whole lot. Every single game he’s played he’s been not just good, he’s been great. And he still comes out of the lineup just because of the way the team is built. He always has a smile and he’s always working hard. It’s nice to see him get rewarded.”
Chorney said the play that led to the goal is something the Caps have been working on in practice lately.
“We’ve been working on getting into that look where we get it up at the top and go D-to-D and get into a flank look,” he said. “Brooksie put it in a good spot and I just shot it. There was a bunch of traffic and it went in.”
Trotz doesn’t often change a winning lineup. But he opted to insert Chorney over Nate Schmidt, despite the Caps’ 6-2 win in New Jersey on Saturday.
“Every day he comes to work,” Trotz said. Trotz also knows that he needs to keep Chorney sharp, just in case injuries strike.
“That’s how we think about our team—everybody is an important piece,” the coach added. “Even Chore, who’s not always in the lineup, he comes in as a true pro, works his butt off every day, doesn’t complain, gets in the lineup and contributes. That’s what you look for. And that’s why the guys love him. That’s why a guy like Taylor Chorney is so valuable to your hockey team. He comes in a does a real good job, and he’s done it all year.”
The goals by Chorney and Alzner marked the sixth and seventh by the Caps’ defensive corps over the past 11 games. While that’s still behind last year’s pace, the group is steadily closing the gap.
And for a Caps’ team that still isn’t scoring as much as it should, getting contributions from the backend is a welcome sign.
“It’s huge,” Trotz said. “Tonight, two guys that don’t score a lot of goals were the difference.”