The Washington Times - December 28, 2011, 02:11PM

After Monday night’s 4-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, the conversation was about a bad start and various other problems for the Washington Capitals. Matt Hendricks‘ first goal of the season was not on the docket.

But the hard-working 30-year-old did snap his 0-for-the-season drought, something that he admitted is a big weight off his shoulders.

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“I think it’s a little bit of a sense of relief. I know I was really squeezing the stick. At about the 15-game mark, I thought I had a lot of opportunities, a lot of close calls and nothing was going in,” Hendricks said. “Then for about the next five or 10 games, you put a lot of pressure on yourself to find that one and kind of after that, you’re just kind of like, ‘It’s got to come sooner or later,’ and you try to let it go and hope you get a lucky one, which I did.”

Hendricks managed to tip a Mathieu Perreault shot past Ryan Miller for his first goal since April 6. That’s a spell of 30 regular-season games for a guy who talked about wanting to score 10-plus goals this season.

Hendricks’ all-around game suffered as he wasn’t able to score that first one.

“Definitely. It takes away from your game, I think. It wears at your psyche a bit,” Hendricks said. “It’s a mental challenge to do that, and I think we’ve had a few guys go through that this season.”

Fellow grinder Jeff Halpern knows what it’s like to go through a scoring slump, as it took until his 10th game of the season to score a goal.

Halpern praised Hendricks for his ability to battle through even without the offensive results.

“I think Hendy’s done an unbelievable job of what’s been asked of him all year as far as fighting and taking faceoffs and forechecking and kind of setting the tone for our team,” Halpern said. “[It’s] kind of that secondary scoring that I don’t think anyone’s asking, but I know he or myself or anyone puts pressure on themselves to produce.

“To get a goal, it gives you a little confidence. You don’t think about it quite as much; things tend to fall into place a little bit easier.”

His streak of games without a goal snapped, Hendricks is already thinking ahead.

“Now I can move forward after that and hopefully have a strong second half of the year here,” he said.