Photo credit: Nick Wass
The Washington Capitals have won a hockey game. For the first time since April 9, 2012, the Caps defeated their opponent when they beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 at Verizon Center. It had been over eight months since the team’s last victory, a May 9 win over the New York Rangers in the second round of the playoffs. After the summer and the lockout, the boys got off to an awful start in 2013. They were blown out in their first three games and dropped Friday’s in overtime.
Another thing that hasn’t happen in just about forever also occurred on Sunday. John Erskine, known for his rough hits and bruising fights, scored. A goal. In a hockey game.
It was Erskine’s first tally since the team’s final game of the 2010-11 season, a 5-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. That’s 634 days for those who like a precise count.
“I wouldn’t say I was surprised,” Erskine, a defenseman, told reporters afterwards. “I just threw it at the net, and you never know what can happen. It can go off people and in the net. That’s the way goals are going in these days.”
“Whenever I score any goals, the boys get up and have a good little cheer,” he added with a wry smile.
A little over three minutes into the second period, with the game tied 1-1, Joel Ward passed to Erskine, who was at the blue line on the far wall. With Drew Stafford defending him, 32-year-old faked a slapper before firing off a wrist shot toward the net. In front, the puck deflected off Buffalo center Cody Hodgson’s stick and tumbled pass Ryan Miller. The Caps took a 2-1 lead.
“I was going to unleash the big cannon first and then he got in the lane so I just threw a little muffin and good stuff happens,” said Erskine.
For about a period, Erskine, who was a healthy scratch most of last season, had one more goal on the year than Alex Ovechkin.
“I think I’ve had more goals than Ovi a couple seasons at the start,” Erskine said with a chuckle.
Big John’s not the only one scoring a little more than we’re used to. Ward, who had just six goals last year, has already notched three this year. As author of the team’s first goal on Sunday afternoon, Ward praised Erskine’s often belittled scoring touch.
“I think Erskine’s shot is pretty underrated,” said Ward. “People don’t give him credit for it. He’s got one of the hardest shots here for sure. He’s a big guy, you don’t want to be the guy blocking a guy who’s covered in that many tattoos like that. ”
Photo illustration by Peter Hassett.