WASHINGTON, DC — To a man, the Washington Capitals said their rally for a 3-2 overtime victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning was a product of hard work in the third period, inspired by some forceful words by Coach Dale Hunter after an atrocious second.
"His message was just to man up. Play hard and play as a team," said defenseman Karl Alzner. "He yelled at us pretty much for one of the first times that he has ever yelled at us and the guys just snapped out of it."
(Alas, no HBO cameras this season to provide a basis of comparison to the great Bruce Boudreau rants of yore.)
Marcus Johansson, who scored the game-tying goal at 16:02 of the third, said the message went beyond working hard.
"We can't always try to make the nice plays. I think everybody here got a wakeup call, and everybody worked as hard as the other guy," he said.
The game-tying goal was a product of that effort, as the Capitals pinned the Lightning in their own zone until defenseman Dennis Wideman forced a turnover that resulted in Johansson scoring past goalie Dustin Tokarski, making his third NHL start.
Ovechkin's game-winner was also a product of hard work, as Dmitry Orlov's pass found the Capitals captain for a wide-open shot, ending the game and sending Ovechkin into one of his unhinged glass-leaping celebrations.
It was a far cry from the second period, when the Capitals gave up two goals, three power plays and a multitude of scoring chances to the Lightning.
"Nobody played well. We made some mistakes. Our line didn't play well in the first two periods, but after that you could see how we play. I think our line dominated them," said Ovechkin, of his line with Johansson and Brooks Laich.
Ovechkin said "the work ethic in the third period was unbelievable" after the shaky second and Hunter's speech.
"We had to give the [defense] some big pressure. They're big and they're strong but they're soft. Not soft … they're slow. We put pucks in deep, get a chip, get a physical game and they're tired, and you see what happens in the third," he said.
Hunter was asked after the game about his dressing room message to the players after the second period.
"Ah, you know … we gotta go out and work hard," he said, his eyes shrinking under the weight of his grin as the press corps laughed at his downplaying.
"We just had to get the pucks in deep and work, and create scoring chances. Chip and chase."
Now, the chase continues for the Capitals, who moved into the No. 8 seed in the East and two points in back of the Florida Panthers, who were shut out by the Philadelphia Flyers.
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