Playing through pain is a trademark of playoff hockey. Apparently coaches have to coach through it, too.
Jack Capuano learned that lesson in the Islanders' 5-3 win in Game 1 on Wednesday night, as an errant puck flew into the Islanders' bench, deflected off Kyle Okposo’s shoulder and caught Capuano to the nose midway through the third period. A towel to the face usually signifies a cut, so it was a scary moment behind the Islanders bench when a trainer’s towel found its way to the coach’s face and he had to be led down the hall for repairs.
“I thought it hit him in the eye, so I was just trying to make sure it didn’t hit him in the eye” Okposo said. “Once I saw it hit him in the nose, I knew he was going to be alright. He played some hockey. Glad to see he’s okay.”
But just as his players fight through the cuts, bumps, bruises – and more – in the postseason, the Islanders’ coach got cleaned up and was back out on the bench later in the period.
“You want to get back out there,” the coach said after the game. “It’s unfortunate I got hit there. I had a headache for a little bit, I wanted to make sure everything was alright.”
Sporting a shiner and a cut on his nose in his post-game news conference, the coach had a sense of humor about his close call.
“I’ve been hit more times than when I played,” Capuano said referencing the Feb. 1, 2013 game in New Jersey where he also took a puck behind the bench. “I’m just fortunate it just caught me in the tip of the nose and nothing real serious.”
Shane Prince, who scored two goals in the Game 1 win, said the team showed character during Capuano’s absence.
“He seems to be okay so that’s good,” said Shane Prince, who had two goals on Wednesday. “It was during a pretty chaotic part of the game, so it’s tough to lose your head coach, the guy who is telling you who is going out."
“Everyone stepped up the guys were able to hold it together and the coach’s managed the bench well," Prince added. "We got the win, that’s all that matters.”
The worst part about the whole incident for Capuano was missing the game behind the bench. He heard the horn for Valterri Fippula’s goal to make it 4-3 and rushed to get back out. On this night, Capuano practiced what he preached: battle level.
“I’m good,” Capuano said. “I’ve got a little bit of a headache, but other than that, it’s a good victory for our team.”