Saturday night, the Capitals looked in danger of falling to the upstart Arizona Coyotes. Then Daniel Winnik happened.
The 32-year-old forward scored two clutch third period goals, including the game-winning tally, to push the Caps to a much-needed win. Washington now owns a three-point lead over the Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins for the Metropolitan Division crown.
After taking a 1-0 advantage into the third period, the Caps saw their lead evaporate 12:29 into the stanza when Coyotes center Peter Holland scored on a broken play. Tom Wilson would complicate matters 29 seconds later after receiving a double-minor for roughing during a post-whistle scrum. This gave the Yotes a potentially game-changing power play and all the momentum.
Instead the Caps killed Arizona’s man advantage and 23 seconds later Daniel Winnik scored on a semi-breakaway.
Winnik roofed the puck past Mike Smith’s glove, falling over during his enthusiastic celly.
The Toronto native would later put the game out of reach when the Coyotes goaltender was pulled for an extra skater. Winnik outworked and outgritted Jame McGinn to push the puck into the back of the net with one hand on his stick.
Here’s another look.
The empty-net tally gave Winnik 11 goals on the season which tied a career high. Winnik scored 11 goals with the Colorado Avalanche during the 2010-11 season and first hit the mark with the Phoenix Coyotes during his rookie season in 2007-08.
“It means a lot,” Winnik said. “I hope to surpass that, I don’t know how many games we have left. Hopefully I do get passed that. I think it is something I have tried for years and I don’t think I can stress enough that I pray that it happens.”
“There was a quote earlier [this season] that if I scored against all my other old teams, I’d have more goals,” Winnik, a veteran of seven different teams during his 10 seasons in the NHL, continued. “I play a couple of them here down the stretch, so hopefully that’s the case.”
Winnik’s heroics came after nearly being knocked out of the game during a race for a loose puck.
Winnik was tripped and slid shoulder first into the end boards, needing several seconds to gather himself and skating off the ice.
“I thought that was kind of…maybe not a dirty play but an unsafe play,” Winnik said. “I don’t like how the refs treated it, just saying that I ran into his skate. I felt that he was kind of interfering with me when we were going down to beat the icing.”
Winnik would power through the pain and go on to play the hero, being named the team’s first star after the game.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) March 26, 2017
Winnik is now one of 11 Caps players to have scored ten or more goals this season. Now if only the Caps would make a t-shirt for him.
— Lisa Desabrais (@LisaDesabrais) March 25, 2017
I knooow 😞 we are never anywhere long enough to have the teams make a Winnik shirt 😭 https://t.co/dxEnaWXYX4
— Taylor Winnik (@TaylorWinnik) March 25, 2017
— Lisa Desabrais (@LisaDesabrais) March 26, 2017
Hopefully this tee will suffice for now.
Cara Bahniuk also contributed to this report.
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