Jay Beagle's game-winning goal against the Rangers lifted the Capitals to a 1–0 win and provided some needed redemption for the gritty forward.
“We deserve it, we earned it, we were working hard for it,” Beagle said of what they were yelling.
Despite his line having many chances this postseason, Beagle’s goal, which required more than a bit of luck, at 7:31 of the second period was the first of the playoffs for Washington’s third unit and it gave the Capitals’ a thrilling 1-0 win in Game 3 and the lead in the series.
On a night where Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist made some spectacular saves on Washington’s captain Alex Ovechkin, the Beagle-Brouwer-Burakovsky line was the difference-maker in the otherwise tight game.
“We’re going to need some new heroes every night,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “It’s going to be someone different for us, that’s how we have to get it done. That line has been buzzing and had some chances and some looks and [the puck] hasn’t gone in, [but] the harder you work, the luckier you get, and that line was really working hard."
The goal came off a turnover by Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi. Beagle took a pass from Burakovsky and shot. The puck was stopped by Lundqvist, but Beagle took the rebound behind the net. His backhand wrap-around shot first went off the skate of New York blueliner Keith Yardle and then off the skate of Lundqvist before trickling into the back of the net.
The game-winning goal was a redemption of sorts for Beagle, who had a chance to score the winner in Game 7 of the Capitals’ first-round series against the Islanders, but couldn’t put the puck past the right pad of goalie Jaroslav Halak with an open net. He also had a chance in the third period of Game 6, but hit the crossbar.
But despite his missed opportunities, Beagle was confident that if he and his linemates continued to put shots on Lundqvist they would find the back of the net sooner rather than later.
“I’ve been getting chances all playoffs and I’ve always said, when you’re getting chances, you’re doing the right thing,” Beagle said. “It’s when you’re not getting the chances, you know you have to tweak something. Finally I got a nice bounce to go in, and it obviously felt nice.”
Added defenseman Brooks Orpik, “It’s kind of what he does every game. It’s good to see those guys get rewarded with goals. He’s one of those guys, you know exactly what you’re going to get from him every night in terms of effort and a lot of small things that get overlooked by a lot of people.”
Though Beagle hadn’t been scoring, he has made a significant impact for the Capitals. He’s won 67.5% of his face-offs this postseason, including 10 of 12 on Monday night, which is something Brouwer said his teammate “prides himself on more than scoring goals.” Trotz also praised "grinder" Beagle’s attitude after the game.
“[Beagle] has been one of those guys … everybody in our room loves him,” Trotz said. “You saw his commitment level to the game and what he brings to our room is exceptional. I was really happy for him to get a real big goal. He always comes in with a smile on his face even when we have bad days, he’s always got a smile on his face.”
On a night where the Rangers were successful against the Caps’ top line of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Joel Ward, holding them to just seven shots on goal, Beagle helped by taking pressure off Washington’s stars.
“When the third and fourth line can chip in, guys like us can chip in, it’s huge,” Beagle said. “They’re trying to shut down our top lines so the third and fourth line has to kick in and make sure we’re getting opportunities and chipping in offensively.”
Added Brouwer, “We talked about being the difference, our line in the game. But you never know how it’s going to play out. But tonight I thought we went out and we were the difference.”