Oates was pleased with how his team performed in that area.
“We stifled their ability to come through the neutral zone quite a bit with our neutral zone,” Brouwer said. “We were in good position tonight, guys were reading the plays really well. We were able to transition, create a lot of offense as a result.”
But the goals could’ve been garbage cleanup in the crease and it would not have mattered. It was the first time Washington scored three even-strength goals in a game this season.
“Big, obviously. It’s been a few games coming, and guys hung in there and played very good hockey again tonight,” Oates said. “Very encouraging.”
After blowing third-period leads in each of the past two games, both losses, the Caps needed something to feel good about.
“How things went on the road trip we knew were unacceptable and we couldn’t come in tonight and use the back-to-back, the travel as an excuse,” Brouwer said. “We had to come out, we had to play real hard, real tough, just battle through all that exhaustion.”
They got it Friday night as they improved to 2-5-1 on the season going into their Super Bowl Sunday showdown against the rival Pittsburgh Penguins. And as much as the two points means something, having positive feelings about a game could do wonders moving forward.
“I think it was huge for our whole group,” said goaltender Braden Holtby, who picked up his first victory of the season. “We obviously don’t have the record we would like right now, but … we definitely have the group to turn things around. We knew tonight was a huge game for not only the standings, the win, just for our confidence and to see the character we have.”
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