Dallas Stars goalie Jake Oettinger played his best game of the season, making 45 saves in a 2-1 victory over the Washington Capitals. It turns out, the 24-year-old former first-round pick was dialed in for this particular game for a very specific reason.
With Caps left wing Alex Ovechkin just one goal away from tying Hall of Famer Gordie Howe for second on the NHL’s all-time goal scoring list, Stars coach Peter DeBoer made sure to whisper in his players’ ears just what would happen if they were on the wrong side of his next historic strike. According to DeBoer, the entire Capitals bench will empty onto the ice to congratulate and celebrate with Ovechkin, and that wasn’t okay with Dallas’ talented netminder.
“Obviously I don’t want that to happen — not against us,” said Oettinger. “They can do that stuff another night. It’s always fun playing one of the best to ever do it, and it was a fun challenge and we stepped up.”
Kudos to DeBoer for coming up with the perfect motivational tactic for his players, who responded by snapping Washington’s five-game winning streak while handing the Caps their first loss at Capital One Arena in nearly a month. Capitals goalie Charlie Lindgren, who earned NHL First Star of the Week honors last week, stopped 24 of 26 shots he faced and forward Conor Sheary scored his 10th goal of the season in the defeat.
Ovechkin and friends will try to get things back on track against Toronto this weekend. Should The Great 8 fail to score against the Maple Leafs that would set up a mouthwatering scenario where Ovechkin has a chance to tie or pass Howe at the expense of his former team, the Detroit Red Wings.