After having about as bad of a five-game start as possible, the Washington Capitals came out firing on all cylinders against the New Jersey Devils in Game Six of the regular season, Wednesday. The Caps dominated in the first period, outshooting the Devils 8-2 and taking a 3-0 lead into the locker room against one of the league’s best young teams.
Then the second period happened. The Capitals frittered away the lead quickly, allowing New Jersey to score four goals in a span of 5 minutes and 30 seconds.
“We did a lot of work in the first to get the lead we wanted,” TJ Oshie said. “I guess we thought maybe it would come easier in the second.”
“We haven’t had a lead the entire year so maybe we just got a little too loose,” Dylan Strome added. “We tried to do a little too much. Obviously a team like New Jersey they can kind of score at will.”
A frustrated Spencer Carbery called timeout with 9:59 remaining and lectured his group at the bench. That conversation continued into the second intermission where he apparently gave the players a choice.
“Do you want [my speech] word for word?” Carbery said, flashing a frustrated smile. The comment seemed to suggest there were some non-PG language shared with the players.
“I just was making it clear to the group what had changed from the first period to the second period and why we were putting ourselves in really, really difficult spots defensively. What was leading to the extended shifts that they were able to gain against us. So, yeah, the second period was extremely frustrating and we just completely changed what we were doing and why we were so successful in the first period.”
While that sounds like a pretty nuanced and complicated discussion, the players said it was not.
“It was really simple actually,” Oshie said. “It’s more of a question from the bench boss asking if we wanted to play like we did in the first period or the second period.”
“We get down 4-3,” Strome added. “We just said we had to play like the first. That’s all that was said. It was a really quick talk from our coach. And it was like, play like we did in the first.”
Whatever Carbery’s exact words or obscenities were, they resonated with a transitioning Capitals team trying to find itself in a new system. Evgeny Kuznetsov found Dylan Strome 18 seconds into the third period to immediately tie and stem the bleeding. Sonny Milano would score, but have the goal would be overturned upon review for being offside. Connor McMichael would give the Capitals the 5-4 lead on a two-on-one break. And Alex Ovechkin potted an empty-netter to seal a wild win — the Capitals’ second of the young season.
“The conversations that were going on between the second and third periods was a lot of situations where you can feel sorry for yourselves,” Carbery said. “You’re down another goal, all the things that have happened to this group the first five games, but they wouldn’t be denied. They said no, we’re not going to let this spiral and continue to get (worse). We’re going to come out and set the tone on the power play and then finish the job.”
“Most times those games, once you jump out to a lead and have given it back up, usually you ride off into the sunset and you lose that hockey game,” Carbery said. “Our guys wouldn’t be denied.”
After being hired by GM Brian MacLellan, many of Carbery’s former players in Hershey said that the quality that makes him special his his competitiveness — a trait that is beginning to show more and more in his hockey team.
“We just came out and shook that second period off which is a good sign,” Oshie said. “I think there’s been a couple games here where we haven’t had our best, we kind of carried the mistakes from before into the next one, and it kind of compounds. Today we came out, let it go, and got back to our game. It’s a good win against a very good team.”
“I thought we dominated the third and the first,” Strome countered.
The victory was special on several levels, marking Hunter Shepard’s first in the NHL and Carbery’s first in regulation as a head coach. Though Carbery was struggling to focus on that minutes after the dub.
“I’m still reliving the second (period),” Carbery said. “I still haven’t quite gotten over what transpired there.”
RMNB is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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