Brooks Laich hadn’t scored since January 7. Since then the $4.5 million a year player had been a healthy scratch and now a fourth liner. That bottom line, though, is filled with rejected top-sixers rather than talentless scrubs — one member of the Sabres organization quipped that it was better than Buffalo’s first line. On Saturday night, that line — Laich, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson — added Washington’s fourth tally of the night, Laich’s first goal in two months.
“I sort of flashed back to the first goal I ever scored in the NHL,” Laich told reporters after the game. “It was in Montreal and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. I got back to the bench and Glen Hanlon he says ‘congratulations.’ I was like ‘dude, I can’t stop smiling.’ He was like ‘good, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.’ This one sort of felt like that.”
It started when Wilson picked off a Buffalo clearing pass midway through the second, then fed in into front to Laich, who fired off a wrist shot from the slot.
Once Laich tallied his first goal in more than two months, Wilson delivered an extended monologue into Laich’s ear as the celebratory scrum formed.
“I don’t even know, man,” Laich responded when asked what Wilson said to him. “I just blanked out and enjoyed the moment.”
Wilson, however, was clear about what transpired.
“I grabbed the monkey off his back and threw him into the 300s, I think,” he told me. “Hopefully he won’t be back anytime soon. It’s definitely a weight off Brooksy’s shoulders.”
Laich’s goal also came with his girlfriend Julianne Hough in attendance, who seemed rather pleased.
“It means a little extra boost,” Wilson said. “He puts a lot of pressure on himself and it’s good for him to get rid of that.”
This season, however, has been poor for 31-year-old Laich, who has just 15 points in 50 games. His cap hit is set to remain on the books until the end of the 2016-17 season. The two month drought only made Laich’s frustration this year more acute.
“It was just difficult,” Laich said. “You lose some sleep at night. I want to thank the coaching staff, the trainers, my teammates especially — the guys stuck with me, helped me through a lot. I have a lot of appreciation for what the guys that around me did for me. Outside the game, my family and my friends and really my girlfriend was a big influence as well. It’s nice to have a smile again. It’s really nice to breathe and have a smile, but appreciate everyone that’s been around me. Something I kept telling myself was, ‘tough times don’t last, but tough people do.’ It was a couple dark days, but hopefully back to the sun now.”
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