Donald Brashear was frustrated enough with his offensive drought that he sought advice from other players and even his general manager about how to break his season-long scoring slump.
The advice the 6-foot-3, 234-pound left wing received wasn’t very complicated. On Thursday night it paid off as Brashear scored his first goal of the season to lift the Washington Capitals to a 5-2 victory over the New York Islanders at Verizon Center.
“I wondered what more I could do, and I talked to George [McPhee] about what could he see from up there [above the ice],” Brashear said. “He said, ‘Just try to take it to the net and crash.’”
The play started with a crafty move by rookie defenseman Karl Alzner. Seeing a mass of bodies in his path, Alzner eschewed a shot toward the net for a blast off the boards to the left of the cage.
After the puck bounced out in front and New York goaltender Joey MacDonald couldn’t corral it, Brashear barely backhanded it inside the far post for his first goal since the playoff series against Philadelphia last season, helping the Caps erase a two-game losing streak.
It also was Alzner’s first NHL point.
“I was even sure if I touched it,” Brashear said. “It went in so slowly. … It just bounced and went toward the goalie. It looked like a big piece of cheese.
“It is always a relief because you want to help the team offensively when you get out there and have scoring chances. It doesn’t have to be a beautiful goal. Sometimes it can just be a hardworking shift or a rebound.”
Brashear’s goal broke a 2-2 tie, and Eric Fehr supplied the insurance with the team’s third power-play goal of the night. After an shot by Alex Ovechkin and a rebound attempt by Brooks Laich, the puck squirted free to Fehr, who backhanded it in for his third of the season at 16:14.
Nicklas Backstrom ended any doubt with an empty-netter from Ovechkin with 49.8 seconds left.
Ovechkin, who scored the Caps’ first goal and added two assists, missed the last eight minutes of the first period after an open-ice hit by Tim Jackman caught him awkwardly on the left side of his body. He returned for the final two periods.
“No, I just broke my skate,” Ovechkin said, though an Islanders player hit him on the left side of his body on his first shift back and he recoiled quickly.
If he were hurting, it didn’t affect his play much after that. He finished the game with 11 shots on net, and though he was not credited with any hits, he went to the penalty box for cross-checking Jackman and later for boarding Andy Sutton.
“He is the leader of the team,” Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. “When the leader sees everything else around him not functioning the way he’d like it, he’s got to be the one who stands up and says, ‘Get on my back and follow me.’”
Brent Johnson made 27 saves to earn the victory, but he saw far less rubber than his counterpart. The Caps’ game plan clearly centered on getting as many shots toward MacDonald as possible.
Their final total of 47 was the first time Washington had topped 40 since the season opener against Atlanta.
“We knew if we have a chance to shoot the puck, we should just shoot it,” Ovechkin said. “We had good opportunities, and you see when [Brashear] scores and [Fehr] scores, we just shoot the puck and take some rebounds.”
Added Boudreau about the commitment to shooting and crashing the net: “Now we just have to keep it consistent. It can’t be a sometime thing - it has to be an everyday thing. When it becomes an everyday thing, you become [a team] that wins four, five, six games in a row.”