It is a special game anytime we play Pittsburgh. And although there is a rivalry between the two teams – which is special in its own right – the fans of both teams are really what make it a special game. There is a buzz in the air and there is a buzz in the arena. It is not hard to feel a different kind of atmosphere and that is just the nature of the beast. Naturally the players are up for it a little more and the coaches are as well. Coaches know what these games mean to the home town and there is a different feeling than if we are playing a Western Conference opponent once a year on a Tuesday night.
Sunday’s game brought excitement on all levels. There were tremendous ebbs and flows to the game and hopefully fans of the sport enjoyed that it was an exciting game. I was really impressed that it was a lead-in to the Super Bowl and hopefully we did the sport proud. Hopefully casual watchers said, ‘Wow, that is a team,’ or ‘Wow, what a game. That is what hockey is all about.’ We were lucky enough to come out on top yesterday, but even if we hadn’t I think I would have said the same thing.
We were down 4-1 in the second and I thought the game was going to be a tough mountain to climb. It did not look like we were getting the breaks that we had gotten in our previous games, but I knew we had the capability to score four goals. Whether we win or lose every game for the rest of the year, if we play as hard as we can we can score some goals. Alex Ovechkin
gets all the attention, and rightfully so, but I think Eric Fehr’s goal at the end of the second period was the biggest goal. That made it 4-2 and a two-goal deficit does not look like a mountain. A three-goal deficit going into the third period seems insurmountable. You can play as good as you can and you can usually get two goals, but it is hard to get the third one.
We came back and eventually won the game in overtime and I actually jumped on the bench after we scored to win. It was the first game all year that I jumped after the game and I think I was just caught in the moment. It was a really emotional, heated game. Both coaches were heated because we thought there some questionable calls on both sides, so emotions were running high. At one point the referee told me to relax because he thought I was getting a little too exuberant.
It is also not lost on me of how lucky I am to be able to coach in these games. I can imagine when I am retired and when the great stars in Sunday’s game like Alex Ovechkin
, Alexander Semin
, Mike Green
, Nicklas Backstrom
, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are retired and have set all kinds of records that I will realize how truly fortunate I was to be a part of games between these two teams. You watch these players go at it and are amazed at all the talent in one setting – two teams going at it tooth and nail is pretty special. I was also glad that the game was on in the U.S. and in Canada coast-to-coast on regular non-cable television. When you are on NBC, that is a pretty special moment.
The Olympic break is coming up and I think it is good for us. The guys are stressed out trying to win every game and I think it will be a good time for them to recharge their batteries. I am hoping this is also a good opportunity for me because I am not allowed to do much for 10 days. I am getting away with the family for a long weekend and am going to organize my hockey school and golf tournament the way it should be so I don’t have to worry about them during the end of the regular season and the playoffs. I am also going to go see my mom and hopefully catch one of my son’s games. This will also be my last column until we start playing again after the break.