When Adam Oates approached the microphone about a half-hour after his first victory as Washington Capitals coach Sunday, he didn’t look thrilled or relieved. Oates said he was “glad” but wished it came sooner.
“I just thought, I’m glad we won, for sure,” Oates said Monday when asked about his subdued reaction. “I guess you want to win the right way. There was parts of it I was a little bit unhappy with.”
Sunday the Caps held on to beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-2. Friday night, they came back in the third period and lost in overtime at the New Jersey Devils. It seemed like the coach was happier about his team’s play in the loss.
“In a sense for that, yeah. Yeah. The process,” Oates said. “I just don’t want the guys thinking today … you’re so guarded that we won a game, which of course we needed right? But you’re worried that ‘We won, we’re superstars.’ And we played OK. It wasn’t a ‘wow’ game. I thought we played better in New Jersey as a team.”
By Monday, still less than 20 hours had passed. But the milestone win had sunk in.
“We needed momentum. We need everything we can get,” Oates said. “There are a lot of positives. Don’t get me wrong. Big win for everybody. And big goal by the power play. We held the lead. We looked good in our end for the majority of the game. We only gave them 10 chances, which is a good thing. We almost 2-to-1’d them in chances: a lot of positives there. You just want to make sure the guys stay with it.”
Perhaps that’s why Oates went back to the line combinations from the Devils game, including Alex Ovechkin with Jay Beagle and Joey Crabb.
Before Sunday’s game, he emphasized how much he liked how the Caps played at New Jersey.
“What I said to the guys is, ‘You play like you did the other night and I’ll take 10 losses in a row if you play like that because it will turn one time and then we won’t lose,’ ” he said.
Really, 10 losses in a row?
“If they play like that, yes, I will. I don’t know if I’m allowed to,” Oates said, getting laughs. “But the point is, you play like that, it will turn. You don’t play like that, you can win a game, which obviously you need, but you win the wrong way, that will bite you in the butt later on, too.”