T.J. Oshie, playing with a heavy heart after losing his father earlier in the week, scored three goals in an emotional performance for the ages Wednesday night, as the Washington Capitals outlasted the New York Rangers, 4-2.
A day that began with the New York tabloids splashing a stunning story of the home team firing their general manager and president across the city, then continued into the night with fighting fireworks as the carryover from the Tom Wilson controversy, ended with a touching story of one of the game’s most understated stars, Oshie, who capped a hat trick with an empty-net goal, fighting back tears.
“It’s such an emotional night for T.J.,” Capitals forward Nic Dowd said. “He has been such a good leader for our team and we are trying to be there for him and take care of him and he ends up taking care of us.”
A day before, Oshie, on social media, announced the news of his father’s death at 56. Tim Oshie was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2012, and was with his son the night the Capitals won the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas, back in 2018.
“He got into town (on Tuesday),” Washington coach Peter Laviolette said. “And there was no way he wasn’t playing.”
Oshie scored two goals in the second period, including the game’s first tally 12 seconds into the frame. In the first period, there wasn’t much offense, as penalties and fights were more the storyline.
By the third period, Oshie had taken over and he sealed the game with his 21st of the season into an empty net, with assists from Carl Hagelin and Dmitry Orlov.
“To go through what he went through and to want to be back here, get with his teammates and play and to play a game for Coach and the game that he played, outstanding,” said Laviolette, referring to Oshie and his father, who went by the nickname “Coach.” “It says a lot about him and what he means to this team.”
Forward Nicklas Backstrom, another mainstay in the Capitals’ nucleus from that Stanley Cup-winning team, hugged his longtime teammate at the bench as the game ended.
“I saw he got emotional there at the end, which was understandable. I felt like he needed a hug,” Backstrom said. “I told him, ‘You are the strongest person I know.’ It’s, first of all, it’s impressive that he actually played today, I think, and how he led the way. We are a family. We are in this together. His loss is everyone’s loss.”
“We are trying to be there for him and take care of him,” he said, “and he ends up taking care of us.”
The win pushed Oshie and the Capitals into a first-place tie with idle Pittsburgh in the East Division. Washington, which has already sealed a postseason berth, will host Philadelphia on Friday and Saturday before finishing regular season next Tuesday against Boston.
As for the Rangers, who were eliminated earlier in the week, they are left with more questions than answers. The loss was their fourth straight, and came hours after the organization stunningly fired president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton. Former Rangers forward Chris Drury will take over both jobs.