To any fan at Verizon Center who celebrated Dennis Wideman’s hat trick Friday night by tossing your lid onto the ice: He wants you to have it back.
See, the Washington Capitals defenseman was awarded a hat trick, but was adamant that the final goal went in off Brooks Laich. What happens to the hundreds of hats?
“I don’t know. They’ll have to give them all back, I think,” Wideman said.
What’s not in doubt is that Wideman had perhaps the best offensive game of his NHL career. He had four points for sure — either two goals and two assists or three goals and one assist — a new career high.
“Dennis logs a lot of minutes, he assumes a lot of responsibility with Mike [Green] out of the lineup, but he welcomes it,” Laich said. “He works hard, and he was our star tonight.”
Wideman wasn’t even aware he never scored two goals in a game before.
“Never? No? I thought I had it one time, but I guess not,” Wideman said. “There’s a first. It’s still a first.”
Wideman said he still doesn’t have his first career hat trick, and he petitioned the league to look at the final power-play goal from Friday night. He didn’t just want to take a hat trick he thought was undeserved.
“You know, if you get one, you want it to be honest,” he said. “You don’t want a cheap one.”
Laich smiled sheepishly and laughed when asked if he should have gotten credit for the goal.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Don’t want to talk about that.”
Wideman went to sleep Friday night having made some some history as the first Caps defenseman to record a hat trick since Sergei Gonchar on Jan. 14, 2000. He had the power play clicking better than it has since Green was the catalyst for four power-play goals Dec. 5, 2009.
“Dennis is a smart player and he knows when to pass, when to shoot, and he was bang on tonight with it,” coach Dale Hunter said. “It’s all decisions to make for a good power play where you’ve got to read the defense just like a good quarterback does it. He’s back there on the top so he’s got to read it: What are they defending and what are they giving me? He shot some, he passed some, so it was great decisions by him.”
Every call Wideman made was the right one. He blasted two shots past James Reimer and made the Maple Leafs’ penalty kill respect his shot. So he had no trouble feeding Nicklas Backstrom for the Caps’ third power-play goal of the night.
“It was a pretty hard pass. I was thinking I was going to shoot it — but I kind of handcuffed myself that I couldn’t,” Wideman said. “I wasn’t going to get a lot of wood on it, and then I saw Nicky over there just standing on the back door, so I thought I better try to get it to him.”
Wideman’s instincts allowed for a fourth power-play goal late in the game. And while the credit on it is disputed, teammates knew this was Wideman’s night to shine.
“He was on fire today,” Backstrom said.