Photo: Evan Vucci
Martin Erat has played on every line for the Washington Capitals. He’s seen power play time and PK minutes. And, of course, he’s sat in the press box. Playing on the first line Saturday, in his 51st game this season, Erat finally scored a goal. Fittingly, it came without a goalie in the net.
“Finally, the one is in the net,” Erat told the gathering of Caps reporters, who had reentered the Capitals locker room after Adam Oates ended his press conference just to talk to him.
Erat’s time in DC, as we all know, has been ill-fated. Traded for a top prospect in Filip Forsberg last season, he asked to leave eight months later after being placed on the fourth line by Oates. With Brooks Laich back in the lineup after missing almost all of last year, Oates didn’t see much of a need for Erat, who, for the first time in the veteran’s career, was made healthy scratch.
The trade Erat requested hasn’t come. And recently, Laich’s injury status has been questionable. On Saturday, Erat once again played on the first line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. With 1:43 remaining against the Devils, he fired a puck from outside the blueline. It hit the unprotected net. Afterwards, a laughing Ovechkin picked up the puck as if he’d hit a milestone. Meanwhile, John Walton lost his mind.
GIFs by Ian Oland
Erat’s season isn’t as depressing as it once was. Oates has praised him recently, saying the forward’s play has improved. He’s seeing lots of power play time and continuing to pick up assists — 21 so far — if not goals.
“It’s easier when you get more minutes on the ice,” said Erat. “You get more chances. You get into the game much more easier. It helps.”
Erat has played more than 20 minutes twice in the last two weeks, the first time he’s hit that mark all season.
Erat, too, was recently named to the Czech Olympic team as an injury replacement. He originally missed the team, possibly due the single-digit minutes he was getting. Now, however, he will be appearing in his third Olympic Games.
“It’s something special,” Erat said. “You never know how many times you’re gonna be there.”
“You have to enjoy it,” he added. “You’re playing for your country.”
When they return from the Olympic break, the Caps will resume the tight battle for the playoffs. To make the postseason, they’ll need goals from everybody. Even Marty Erat.