(photo by Brian Murphy)
The Washington Capitals were able to defeat the defending champion Detroit Red Wings 4-2 at the Verizon Center thanks to the return of “old reliable.”
While his game doesn’t typically show up on the stat sheet, Caps defenseman Tom Poti stepped back into the lineup after missing 15 games and immediately helped to solidify the Caps’ defensive corps, and more importantly, the team’s pitiful penalty-killing unit (as evident by his team-leading 5:26 of penalty-killing time during the game). We caught up with Poti in the Caps’ locker room after the game to see how he felt after helping his team to one of their biggest wins of the season.
You guys were able to snap a two-game losing streak against one of the league’s elite teams and you personally stepped back onto the ice and looked like you didn’t miss a beat. How did it feel to get back into action?
“It felt pretty good,” Poti said. “Glad I made it through the game and it’s just fun to be back playing. It sucks sitting around watching, not being able to help your teammates. So it’s just good to be back. I definitely felt a little rusty out there, but I got my game back slowly.”
And for what it’s worth, the replay showed that you got a raw deal on your penalty at the end of the game. The puck definitely deflected off of a Detroit stick out of the rink.
“Yeah, that’s the same ref who doesn’t like me,” he said. “He’s made some pretty bad calls against me in the past, so I didn’t expect anything different from him.”
You guys haven’t done great against the Western Conference this year and your record isn’t nearly as impressive when you give up the first goal. And yet, you guys were able to rally back and beat Detroit for only the second time in your last 12 games against them. How were you able to get it done today?
“I think the biggest thing is when we saw this game on the calendar at the beginning of the season we were all pretty excited and jacked up about it,” Poti said. “It’s a great measuring stick to see where you’re at against the defending Stanley Cup champions. We were hyped up to play the game and were able to get the result that we wanted.”
Detroit has won something like four championships in 11 years or something and most impressively, they don’t ever seem to have a down year. What can you guys learn from a franchise like that and what do you have to do where we’re talking about the Capitals being a consistent contender like them year in and year out?
“Their consistency is pretty amazing,” he said. “It just goes to show that their guys buy into their system. If you play within that system, you’re going to get more wins than losses. I think we can kind of feed off of that. The games that we lose, we stray from our system. Those situations are pretty obvious to us sitting on the bench when we’re not playing the right way we’re going to be in for a tough night.”
With about seven minutes left in a tied game you kind of got the sense that whoever struck next would win the game. Along comes Ovechkin once again to bring home the victory …
“Surprise, surprise,” Poti said with a laugh.
Does it ever get old watching him play?
“Not at all,” he said. “We love to see that happen. You know, when he gets the puck on his stick, no matter where he is, the whole crowd rises up and all the guys on the bench rise up at the same time because we know he’s probably going to do something special with it. He was the reason we got the win tonight. Both teams battled hard, but we had Ovie and they didn’t.”
It looked like he kind of lost the puck in between his legs for a second and then was able to get it back and put a shot on net. He didn’t get much on the shot, but it was enough. How many players can make that play with the game on the line?
“Not too many,” Poti said. “He’s the best player in the world and can make something out of nothing. We’re just glad he’s on our side.”