Marcus Johansson was more than ready to return after missing 12 games with a concussion. “I’ve been waiting a long time to get back out and play again,” he said.
“I thought he was one of our best players,” Oates said. “That looked like maybe that hit in training camp really did affect him because that looked like what I saw on tape.”
Johansson collided with captain Alex Ovechkin during a training camp scrimmage Jan. 15. The 22-year-old forward said recently the hit had nothing to do with his injury, though he also wouldn’t say when the concussion symptoms began.
But Johansson wasn’t himself in his first nine games: one goal, no assists and a minus-7 rating. In his first game since Feb. 7, he assisted on defenseman Steve Oleksy’s goal and played well enough to earn a midgame promotion to the first line.
“I think that’s how it played out,” Johansson said. “Obviously, just happy to be out there and play again. Try to help the team win.”
“I felt good,” he said. “This is the best I’ve felt all year, so it was nice to be out there again.”
Braden Holtby was pulled Sunday after the starting goaltender allowed three goals on 19 shots.
The first banked in off Holtby’s right skate, while the 23-year-old didn’t see the second one. It would have been hard for anyone to stop the third one, a snipe by Rick Nash that went in off Ryan Callahan’s leg.
“My mindset is I want to finish every game,” Holtby said. “If that’s in the coach’s best interest to do, then I respect his decision. I’d like to battle through every challenge that I’m faced with, but that’s just the way it is.”
Asked about his game, Holtby said: “It has to be better, simple as that. That’s all I can really say.”
John Erskine missed Sunday’s game with an upper-body injury. The big defenseman appeared to hurt his left hand or wrist in Saturday’s loss at the New York Islanders.
Erskine took warm-ups but was scratched as Tom Poti returned to the lineup. Oates said Erskine met with team doctors but the coach didn’t give any indication how long the 32-year-old would be out.
“Hopefully it’s not long,” Oates said.
The Caps are 0-7 this season when Erskine doesn’t play.