The last time John Tortorella set foot in VerizonCenter, his New York Rangers were beating the Capitals 5-0 in the seventh game of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
But that wasn’t the last the Caps would hear from the fiery 55-year-old native of Boston.
A few days after that series, Tortorella accused the Capitals of whining about the officiating and Capitals coach Adam Oates was asked in an interview for 106.7 The Fan if he could beat Tortorella in a fight.
“Easily,” Oates replied.
On Friday morning, with Tortorella back in town as coach of the Vancouver Canucks, Oates was asked about the animosity between him and Tortorella.
“I didn’t have animosity with him,” Oates said.
Capitals right wing Troy Brouwer said a little sandpaper between opposing coaches, whether real or perceived, is just fine with him.
“Any time coaches coach against each other they want their teams to win and they’re going to do everything possible for their team to win,” Brouwer said. “We’ve played against Torts a lot and coaches have their rivalries.”
Oates and Tortorella find themselves in an uphill battle to get into the playoffs, with each team holding 70 points and on the outside of the playoff picture.
“It’s the first thing I said in the meeting this morning,” Oates said of his talk with the players. “We’ve both got 70 points we both need this game. It is a desperate, must game.”
Oates said Tortorella has brought his shot-blocking, hard-hitting philosophy to the Canucks and he expects more of the same tonight.
“They really protect their goalie,” Oates said. “They work hard, they’re relentless with their work ethic. They try to be physical and finish their checks at all times, especially on the forecheck. We talked about our defense handling that pressure, making quick decisions and slowing them down in the neutral zone.”
Earlier this season, Tortorella was suspended 15 days for his role in a hallway altercation between the Canucks and Calgary Flames.
Brouwer said Tortorella’s coaching style may be unorthodox, but he believes it’s effective.
“It’s good to see,” he said. “When your coach goes to bat for you, whether it’s defending you in the media or in a little altercation like that, it shoes how much that coach cares for his players, for his team, and those are good things -- except for getting suspended.”