When Mike Green fumbled the puck and turned it over to Matt Moulson on Tuesday night, it directly led to the New York Islanders’ game-winning goal scored by John Tavares. If you listen to Brooks Laich, it was his fault.
Washington Capitals coach Adam Oates said Laich, who sent the puck behind the net, and Green, who coughed it up, shared the blame.
“Not a good interchange between Brooksie and Greenie,” Oates said after the 3-2 loss. “Brooksie was tired, so he just wanted to bank it to him, and it was obviously bouncing. A play that I’m sure those two guys would like back. A tough play for Greenie. He bounced it right at his feet, and he was just trying to make a play.”
At the end of the day, Green, who was not made available to speak to reporters, should shoulder the majority of the blame. With Moulson coming on the forecheck, the 27-year-old defenseman had simple plays to make and instead appeared to try to spin around.
“I saw … Green kind of just fumbling it there, so Matt did a great job getting it on the forecheck,” said Tavares, whose one-timer from inside the faceoff circle beat Holtby seconds later.
Laich said “that play is more on me” and apologized to Green. He had been on the ice for almost a minute and looked out of gas.
“I got caught out, a little fatigued, went back and I wanted to send it back behind the net. I didn’t think I could get Mike direct,” Laich said. “I didn’t want to turn one over in the middle in front of our net so I sent it behind the net. Bad angle, bad decision by myself. I put Mike in trouble, and it resulted in the winning goal.”
Laich’s play was routine: send the puck back to a defenseman to reset the play. Problem was, it bounced off the boards and the back of the net and caught Green with Moulson in aggressive pursuit.
“It’s just a strange play,” Holtby said. “Brooks tried to go off the wall to Green, and I think it hit funny along the boards, just one of those plays where it kind of handcuffed Greener and I was too busy trying to see the play develop behind the net to notice where Tavares was.”
Unprompted, captain Alex Ovechkin brought up Laich when asked about the game-winning goal. At first glance it appeared to be on Green.
“I think Brooksie was exhausted there and make a bad play and we make a turnover,” Ovechkin said. “We make one mistake in the third and it cost us the game.”
Oates said Laich probably had more time than he thought. “He was just tired,” the Caps’ coach said. “It was a tired play.”
It was Laich’s fifth game back after missing the first 28 with a groin injury. He played a season-high 19:41 in the loss to the Islanders.
“Those plays those guys don’t usually make, and obviously, Brooksie, coming back from injury, [I] probably played him a little too much,” Oates said.
Those not directly involved in the play understood the mistakes led to the loss. But teammates were not overly critical of Laich and Green.
“It’s a game of inches and details, and just a small little mishap that turned into a goal,” right wing Joel Ward said. “There’s not much you can do about it.”
Said defenseman Steve Oleksy: “It’s a fast game, and things happen fast and guys at this level are very good hockey players. Every little mistake is crucial.”
Center Mike Ribeiro went back to his favorite “D” word that was a postgame staple during the Caps’ 2-8-1 start.
“Most of the goals will be details that cost you goals,” Ribeiro said. “We come back, misplayed puck and then next thing you know it’s behind the net. You cannot judge the game on that play. I think it’s a 60-minute game and there’s other plays in the game that we could’ve done better.”
Not falling behind 2-0 would have changed the entire landscape of the game. But when Laich and Green couldn’t make a play, the Caps fell four points back of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“You win as a team, you lose as a team,” Laich said. “But I can certainly make a better play to help Mike out.”
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