After four losses in a row, things were looking ominous for the Washington Capitals. The mood in the locker room, Bruce Boudreau said, wasn’t light.
But then they came back to beat the Phoenix Coyotes 4-3 on Monday night at Verizon Center, and the familiar strains of DJ Pauly D’s “Beat Dat Beat Up” blared from the speakers in the winning room. As reporters entered, players booed as the music was silenced.
The presence of that – after the way the Caps had been playing – said as much about relief as the looks on everyone’s faces.
“That’s exactly what I told them – it’s nice to hear the music,” Boudreau said.
Boudreau had cautioned “It’s not the end of the world,” but it was starting to feel like it. Fair or unfair, speculation swirled among the fan base and around the league about the coach’s job security. Monday, he made Alexander Semin a healthy scratch and turned back to Tomas Vokoun for a game he – and the Caps – really needed to win.
A good time for Boudreau to hit win No. 200 – the fastest coach to do it in NHL history.
“I would’ve traded 199 of them for that one today,” Boudreau said. “When you don’t win for any length of time, it gets tougher. It came at a good time.”
On this night, Boudreau pushed all the right buttons, including making Semin a healthy scratch for seven straight games with minor penalties. Accountability was again the focus.
“It’s a substantial player. It’s a significant player in our lineup. It’s not only a message to him, but to other guys in the room: If you’re not going to play hard every night, we have that balance,” veteran right wing Mike Knuble said. “You get under the gun like we are, like we’ve been the last little bit, and if [Boudreau has] got guys that are going to work hard for him, then he’s probably going to go with them.”
They worked against the Coyotes – coming from down 2-0 to win for the first time since Nov. 11. A fight by Matt Hendricks late in the first and subsequent yelling at the bench fired the team up.
Accountability – in a good way – showed itself there.
“A lot of guys say the right things. It’s a matter of getting everyone on the same page and doing the right things,” Hendricks said. “You can talk about things as much as you want. Until we go out and execute, we’re not going to get the results. We played against a very good team tonight in Phoenix and we got the two points, which is most important.”
Players – and Boudreau – didn’t care about how the victory happened. The Caps got goals from John Carlson and Cody Eakin to tie the score, and then Nicklas Backstrom to provide the lead. Brooks Laich’s five-on-three goal was (much-needed) insurance.
The result was a win. And much-needed music.
“It’s just good to win,” Joel Ward said.
• Stephen Whyno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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