Wojtek Wolski watched the Washington Capitals' 3-0 win over the Winnipeg Jets Saturday while wearing a suit and tie.
After a 10-game pointless streak and an 11-game goalless drought - the fourth-longest of his eight-year career -- the 27-year-old, who earlier this season skated on the first line, was deemed a healthy scratch by head coach Adam Oates. To say that the left winger was snakebitten would have been an understatement; it was more like he was being slowly digested by a boa constrictor.
For Oates, however, it wasn't about that.
"It's been a lot of focus on goal scoring as opposed to execution," he told reporters prior to Saturday's game. "I really want him to focus on execution."
So that's what Wolski did during Monday's practice, but it was unlikely that he would have the opportunity to put it to good use Tuesday against the Boston Bruins. That is, until Troy Brouwer was stricken by illness.
In what could have easily been one of his last chances to prove that he belonged in the Capitals' lineup, Wolski certainly took advantage of an opportunistic situation in more ways than one, pouncing on a bouncing puck and scoring the game-tying goal late in the third period of Tuesday's 4-3 come-from-behind overtime victory, his third goal of the season and first since Feb. 1.
As he returned to Washington's bench to celebrate with his teammates, Wolski exhaled deeply as if that 11-game goalless drought had literally been lifted off his shoulders.
"It's huge," Wolski said. "I had so many chances in the last 10 games and missing open nets and it gets frustrating. It's easy to not do the work and just shut down, but I've been trying to keep with the game plan, trying to come in early, trying to work hard, work on the boards, skate as much as I can and I'm happy it paid off."
But it wasn't Wolski's goal-scoring that impressed Oates. It was his execution.
"I'm obviously happy for him, but I thought he played a better hockey game," he said. "He did the things that we asked. The goal, that's obviously big for him, but besides that, we don't talk production. We talk play. You've gotta play."
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