By Adam Vingan
On December 23, 2008, the Washington Capitals entered the third period of their game with the New York Rangers trailing by three goals. Forty minutes of unspirited play did not seem right during the holiday season, especially with just two days left before Christmas. The Caps ultimately scored three unanswered goals in the final 20 minutes in an effort to salvage the game before Shaone Morrisonn – on his birthday, no less – made the “comeback come complete” in a 5-4 overtime win.
Exactly three years later, across the Hudson River, the Caps found themselves down by three goals again entering the third period. Again, they rallied from said three-goal deficit to send the game into overtime. This time, however, the Caps’ Christmas carol came incomplete in a 4-3 shootout loss to the New Jersey Devils.
Yet another close loss right before Christmas may seem like a lump of coal, but a piece of coal can be squeezed into a diamond. There are plenty of positives that the Caps can take out of this loss.
There’s Jason Chimera, who led the comeback effort in the third period with his 12th and team-leading 13th goals of the season. Chimera has been the ghost of Martin Brodeur’s past and present; he has four goals against Brodeur in the last two seasons. Chimera is one of Washington’s “heart and soul” players, but he has stepped up this season and become one of the team’s guiding lights. He’s just five goals from setting a career-high and has more multi-goal games this season than Alex Ovechkin.
More importantly, the Caps did not stop playing when the Devils’ lead grew to three. Several times this season, the Caps have rolled over while their opposition buried them (Toronto, Buffalo, New York Rangers). There have been other times when comebacks fell just short (Vancouver, Florida). For the second time this season, the Caps earned a point after being down by three goals (Anaheim). While Washington only left with a point this time, it’s a big point as the Caps need every bit of help they can get.
As the NHL comes to a standstill for two days, so do the standings, where the Caps now sit just outside the Eastern Conference playoff picture. With time to reflect, realize that there is over half of the regular season left. The Caps may not have given their fans as much to cheer about so far this season as in seasons past, but they leave them with renewed hope.
And that is what the holidays are all about.