Some days in Caps history mark significant milestones or important events. Others are just, well…odd in an unexpected way. Such was August 10, 2005, in Washington Capitals history. The day before, the club signed free agents Andrew Cassels and Lawrence Nycholat to help fill out a rather thin squad as the team was headed toward their first training camp since the 2004-2005 lockout. On this date, the team signed two more players, both defensemen – Mathieu Biron and Ivan Majesky.
Both were 20-something players who had knocked around a bit. Biron was 25 years old but already had five NHL seasons on his resume. He also had four NHL stops on that resume – Los Angeles (who drafted him, but for whom he never played a game), the New York Islanders, the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Florida Panthers. Majesky got a late start on his NHL career, not appearing in an NHL game until he was 26 years old, with the Panthers, but he had both the Panthers and the Atlanta Thrashers as stops in his two-year career before landing in Washington.
It could reasonably be said that neither Biron nor Majesky would be considered among the top 50 defensemen ever to pull on a Capitals’ sweater (they rank 92nd and 88th, respectively, in games played for the franchise among defensemen). In fact, for both Biron and Majesky, their first seasons with the Caps in 2005-2006 would be their last seasons with the Caps. Their last seasons in the NHL, in fact. Not that they were bad, in the context of their respective careers. Biron would tie a personal best of 13 points in 52 games played with Washington, while Majesky appeared in 57 games for the Caps.
So, what makes this date and these two defensemen worthy of notice? Actually, it is Majesky that is of particular interest here. Not for his body of work, which was unremarkable on an unremarkable team. It was for a moment, a single play. Consider that Majesky is one of 13 defensemen since the 2005-2006 season to record a single goal in a season and have that goal be a shorthanded one (oddly enough, he was not the only Capital to do it; Jeff Schultz did it in 2008-2009).
What makes Majesky’s moment memorable, a glimmer of joy in what was otherwise a period lacking in success, were the circumstances surrounding the goal. The date was March 8, 2006. The Caps were dead last in the Southeast Division, sporting a 21-33-6 record. It might have been the worst record in the Eastern Conference but for their opponent that night. The Pittsburgh Penguins were waddling along with a 14-36-12 record, worst in the entire league.
The teams exchanged goals early in the first period, Colby Armstrong opening the scoring for the visitors and Ben Clymer tying the game shortly thereafter. Chris Clark gave the Caps their first lead mid-way through the frame. Three minutes after the Clark goal, Jeff Halpern was sent to the penalty box for interference, giving the Penguins a power play. The Caps were less than 15 seconds from killing off the penalty when the wheel of fortune came to a stop at “Ivan Majesky.” Shaone Morrisonn collected a sliding puck in his own end and sent it across to Majesky on the opposite side near the players bench. And then this happened…
It was a lighthearted moment in a 6-3 Caps win against perhaps their most bitter rival, even if both clubs were in the midst of rebuilding efforts. But for a stroke of a pen in August of 2005, Caps fans – not to mention Majesky himself – would have been denied this odd, yet charming moment in history.
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