In a rivalry game like Pens-Caps, especially this season, often you can toss out the stats sheet and point to one or two key moments as turning point. Such was the case Monday night in the Caps’ 1-0 triumph.
In Monday night’s second period, with the game scoreless and the Pens holding a decisive edge in shots and scoring chances, Matt Bradley did what many in the NHL have wanted to do for years and in the process reversed the game’s momentum: he punished filthy Matt Cooke. Cooke, you’ll recall, did his level best to take out Alexander Ovechkin with an extended knee the last time these teams met. He kept up his dirty play and soon thereafter and was suspended. Matt Bradley carried a long memory into tonight’s game and waited to extract frontier justice in defense of his teammate. And despite the penalty he incurred on the hit, it was a clean hit.
Seasons of meager achievements gain meaning from such moments. And moments after Brads left the penalty box, he was forced to own up to his largely clean hit: Ryan Craig came calling, and Brads answered — in resounding fashion.
Let’s keep a close eye on what this hockey team achieves hereafter. Monday night we may have witnessed a turning point in a largely undistinguished season, and if so, Matt Bradley deserves credit.