WASHINGTON —Troy Brouwer didn’t see his Winter Classic-winning goal beat Corey Crawford. The roar from the Nationals Park crowd and the reaction from his teammates on the ice was what tipped the Capitals forward off to the fact that he had just won the game with 12.9 seconds left in the third period.
The Capitals edged the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 in the 2015 Winter Classic on Thursday. It was a win that almost slipped through the home side’s grasp after they blew a 2-0 lead and later were forced to kill off a 5-on-3 power play after Tom Wilson and John Carlson were called for penalties 29 seconds apart in the second period.
The ebb and flow of the game culiminated late in the third period, with the Capitals on a power play. Alex Ovechkin’s shot attempt ended with a broken stick inside the face-off circle to Crawford’s right. With the puck loose, Brouwer spun around, lifted Brandon Saad’s stick and beat the Blackhawks netminder glove side.
“It was one of those where you just know the time, you know the score and you’re just trying to get a puck on net,” Brouwer said afterward. “Thankfully, it went in.”
Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner described the sound inside the stadium after the goal as a “deep rumble.” Mike Green, who was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal, said the celebration inside their huddle was so loud he almost passed out.
It was a big goal for Brouwer for more than the fact that it won the game and that it was the first time he had scored against his former team. He experienced this moment in front of his father, Don, who hasn't seen him play live much since suffering a stroke in 2010 that left him with mobility and vision issues. (Be sure to read Katie Strang’s great story on the Brouwers.)
“He texted me, but that's it,” Brouwer said after being asked if he had seen his father post-game. “I haven't responded to him. I figured I would wait until I got home to kind of share it with him. But knowing how my dad is right now he's probably got a couple tears.”
The D.C. Winter Classic was worth two points, just like every other NHL regular season game; but it was on a grander stage, with pomp and circumstance as part of the build-up and pre-game festivities.
It was the perfect stage for stars to rise, like Ovechkin, who scored a first period goal and was instrumental in a number of scoring chances for the Capitals. It was also a stage for those under-the-radar players like Eric Fehr, who opened the scoring with his third Winter Classic goal, and Brouwer, who scored one of the most memorable goals of his career with his dad watching.
The Capitals almost saw a glorious day for the franchise blemished, but the spectacle that was the 2015 Winter Classic ended in victory.
“Like Brouwy said, it's a good time to show up and make a show,” said Ovechkin. “And he did.”
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