WASHINGTON — The Washington Capitals know they didn’t win the Stanley Cup today.
They know they only get two points for the victory, just like any other regular-season game.
And while they may not admit it publicly, they probably know deep down they were fortunate to be on the power play when Troy Brouwer scored the deciding goal with only seconds remaining.
Still, today’s 3-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2015 Winter Classic was a big win for the Caps. Not only because of the venue — a sold-out, red-clad Nationals Park, with almost 43,000 in attendance — but because of the team they defeated.
“The game didn’t feel like a regular-season game,” said forward Brooks Laich. “It felt a lot more special, a lot more important than your standard regular-season game. The bench, when Brow scored, just erupted. Fans erupted. Then we were going, ‘OK, just 13 seconds, just fight and die to win this hockey game. Whatever we need to do to win this hockey game.'”
Defenseman Mike Green is hoping that beating a team like the ‘Hawks, on a national stage like the Winter Classic provides, can propel his own club forward.
“They’re an amazing hockey team,” said Green. “They really are. They’re the cream of the crop right now.
“It was important that we got our two points. We’ve got to put ourselves in a position where we’re in the playoffs and we can give ourselves a chance to compete against teams like this in the playoffs. We take pride in today’s win and we’ll use that momentum going forward.”
“I don’t want to make this more than it is,” said Caps owner Ted Leonsis. “I’m hoping that we can be a franchise that can accomplish bigger things than winning the Winter Classic. But it does feel good to have the league believe in us.
“I think this was the best Winter Classic. When you look at the quality of the play, the speed of the game, the quality of the ice. I thought the weather was perfect. And to win at the buzzer basically makes for great theater, great drama. We get out before the Rose Bowl, or whatever’s going to start in a little bit, and everyone gets to drive home when it’s still light out.
“It was a good day.”
The Caps missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 2007. Unlike today, those were not good days, as fingers were pointed and jobs were lost.
While the Caps understand they still have a ways to go before they can claim a spot among the NHL’s elite, today was a confidence-builder.
“In the past, if we have a two-goal lead and we lose it, sometimes we would wilt,” said Leonsis. “And I didn’t see any of that. I didn’t feel any lack of confidence from anyone on the team. I thought we were the better team today, and we deserved the two points.”