It was the kind of start the Caps have prided themselves on lately, and players said not much changed to spark this three-game streak. But when the Rangers tied the score at 2 and then Washington failed to score on a five-on-three power play, one major change was visible.
Oates said his team did a better job of handling “adversity.” It showed.
“Pittsburgh when we had that four-minute power play all of a sudden then they come down and score,” he said. “The crowd was crazy, they kill a big penalty and we didn’t let it break us down. We went right back to work and [played] five-on-five good hockey.”
Backstopped by some Holtby saves, the Caps didn’t fold as the Rangers outshot them 20-9 in the final two periods. Brouwer had a chance to end it in regulation, but he and his teammates had to settle for overtime and then the shootout.
The Rangers picked up a point and moved into eighth in the East, while the Caps finished the night in 10th.
“It would’ve been real nice to not let them get a point, especially since we’re trying to chase them in the standings here and we don’t want to give them anything,” Brouwer said. “[But] we’re not going to complain about two points.”
No one’s complaining about six points on the road, either, especially after the Caps went 4-8-1 away from Verizon Center before setting off for Pittsburgh.
“It was a big week for us. It’s not just that we got six out of eight points; we played better as a team,” Backstrom said. “I think that’s the effort you’ve got to do if you’re going to fight for a playoff spot. You’ve just got to keep going here, keep working for 60 minutes every game, and hopefully you get success.”
The Caps found success but Oates knows his team must “turn the page” and prepare for the pesky New York Islanders on Tuesday. Another game doesn’t feel like another chance for the season to fall by the wayside; instead, as Laich said last week, it’s an “opportunity” to earn valuable points.
“You can feel it in here, we’re starting to find a groove, starting to find our game, growing with confidence and players are figuring out their roles on the team and we feel really good with our game right now,” Laich said. “If we stick with it, stay healthy, we’re going to be a dangerous team.”