WASHINGTON, D.C. - When the Washington Capitals ended their eight-game losing streak last season, they provided a lasting image: players smiling after over two weeks without a victory while jokingly fist-pumping to DJ Pauly D's "Beat Dat Beat."
For the past 10 days in 2011, the Caps had been mired in a four-game losing streak. While it may not have been as long as last season's, this particular losing streak seemed much more debilitating. Being outscored 14-3 on a three-game road trip certainly didn't help matters; being down 2-0 in the second period to the Phoenix Coyotes Monday at Verizon Center made it worse. Yet, Washington battled back and ultimately snapped their skid with a 4-3 victory.
After the game, as the locker room doors opened, a familiar song blared through the speakers. "Beat Dat Beat" had made its triumphant return, and with it came the return of Washington's winning ways.
"That's exactly what I told them - it's nice to hear the music," head coach Bruce Boudreau said.
While the players were happy, yet humble in victory, Boudreau was the happiest of all. For the last week, he certainly had heard or seen fans and media pundits calling for his job. A slumping team had seemingly lost its intensity and Boudreau was to be the first casualty. But with the lights on bright and their coach's seat getting warmer, the Caps put on a spirited performance Monday. A 2-0 deficit in the second period became a 4-2 lead in the third. Washington is no stranger to comebacks like the one completed Monday, but something about this one just seemed more important.
"When it's 2-0 for them, you can go one of two ways," Brooks Laich said. "You can fold the tent and things really get sour and then there's no life in the building and everyone's looking around. Or you can push back and I think that's what our team did. Our team got mad and we pushed back."
The Caps did indeed push back, scoring twice within a three-minute span to tie the game midway through the second period. A antsy Verizon Center crowd that was sitting on its hands stood up and cheered (and a balloon ominously fell from the rafters) and for the first time in over a week, things seemed right with the Caps' world.
"We always thought today when they scored the second goal on the penalty shot, we said, 'Stay the course' and 'Guys, keep the game plan going. We're playing good,'" Boudreau said. "We thought we were doing all the right things and if we kept going that eventually something would break. Congratulations to the guys for pushing through."
"It was quiet," Boudreau continued in regards to the crowd. "They were probably sitting on their hands going, 'Oh, what's going to happen next?'"
What happened next was the Caps' fourth win this month and the relief of pressure from Boudreau's shoulders for the time being. Washington is too talented of a hockey team to lose in spectacular fashion for an elongated period of time. What seemed like yet another disappointing defeat turned into a character-building victory, which will go a long way towards the Caps' inevitable success.
"We've got a lot of leaders in this room, a lot of guys say the right things," said Matt Hendricks, whose first period fight turned momentum in the Caps' favor. "It's a matter of getting everyone on the right page and doing the right things. You can talk about things as much as you want, but until we go out and execute, we're not going to get the results."
Lost in the excitement was Boudreau's personal accomplishment. Monday's win was the 200th of his career, a mark he reached in only 326 games, making it the fastest in NHL history. For an embattled coach facing harsh criticism, however, any win would have sufficed.
"I would have traded 199 of them for that one today," he said. "When you don't win for any length of time it gets tougher, so it came at a good time."
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