WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a 2-2 tie with under 15 seconds left in the third period of the Winter Classic, Washington Capitals forward Troy Brouwer looked down and saw the puck by his skates. He later said he was just trying to keep the play alive because he knew time was winding down, so he “threw it to the net.”
And it went in. With 12.9 seconds left in regulation, Brouwer scored off the rebound of shot by teammate Alex Ovechkin, delivering a 3-2 victory for the Capitals.
It came against his former team, the Chicago Blackhawks. And it happened in front of his father Don, who was seeing his son play for the first time in Washington, D.C. since the elder Brouwer suffered a stroke near the end of the 2009-10 season.
“It's pretty special,” Brouwer said. “I’ve had some good moments in my hockey career, but this one, with all the intangibles, that played a part in it. My parents being able to come into town, playing against my former team, this being the first goal that I scored against my former team and the dramatic fashion at the end of the game of how everything played out.
“It’s going to be a memorable day, a memorable event. The entire lead up to this has been a lot of fun and the finish couldn't have worked out any better for us as a team and me personally.”
Brouwer said he was unable to see his dad immediately after the game but was looking forward to sharing the moment with him when he got home.
“[My dad] texted me, but that's it,” Brouwer said. “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.”
Brouwer’s teammates, included right wing Eric Fehr, could see how much the game, and the goal, meant to him.
“For Troy, with his dad coming here, it is a real special occasion just with that,” said Fehr, who scored the game's first goal. “For him to score that goal at the end to get the win, he has to be feeling unbelievable right now.”
Added center Jay Beagle, “It is unbelievable, a great story. Awesome to have him score the game-winner with his dad here. I couldn’t be happier for him.”
With the win, the Capitals have now earned a point in 12 of their last 13 games, finding themselves in third place in the Metropolitan Division with 45 points after starting the season slowly.
“Emotionally, that was a great script for us, because it showed a little bit of what I think the Capitals are becoming as a group,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “ Us as a team, is that we are—we can win different ways, we can be really resilient and we play to the end. That's been sort of our MO.”
Nearly halfway through the season the Capitals are still trying to figure out who they are as a team, but Trotz said he was “happy in a lot of ways” with the progress they've made since the start of the season. Though the Capitals haven’t been on the “big stage” as much as other teams the last couple years, Trotz said, he was pleased with the way the last month has gone for Washington.
The new year certainly got off to a great start for the Capitals, with a game Ovechkin said the team has been looking forward to all season.
“We started talking about the Winter Classic since we started the season and this is it,” Ovechkin said. “I remember Brouwer said, it's a good time to show up and make a show. And he did.”