After a disastrous play by Alex Ovechkin midway through the first period led to a shorthanded goal against, the Washington Capitals were on their heels once again in Game Five of this first-round playoff series against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Later, after being outshot 16-1 in the final frame of regulation, things looked dire for Washington, with the team possibly headed to Columbus on the brink of elimination. In a series full of missteps, the Capitals had blown the lead four of the five games.
Nicklas Backstrom, joined by other veterans, had a word with the team before overtime, the fourth time this series has required at least one extra period.
“We had to be better,” Backstrom said of his message to the team.
More significant than the rah-rah moment in the locker room, Backstrom contributed two goals in the Saturday’s 4-3 Capitals victory, including a tip past Columbus netminder Sergei Bobrovsky that ended the game. Game Six, with the Capitals leading the series 3-2, is Monday in Columbus.
“It’s usually what happens in the playoffs: tip goals or rebound goals,” Backstrom said of the game-winner. “That’s the way it is. It was nice.”
In the previous four games of the series, the Capitals have been paced by a first line that has scored a combined nine goals.
On Sunday, the second line of Backstrom, TJ Oshie, and Chandler Stephenson, put up six points, including three goals. Saturday was the first time in this series the second line had scored during five-on-five play.
Backstrom notched two goals, including a game-tying goal in the first period that he banked off Bobrovsky and a game-breaking goal in the fourth period. Oshie, playing through an injury, added another goal on the power play, his second PPG of the playoffs. Stephenson was credited with the first two playoff assists of his career.
“I liked their game,” Capitals head coach Barry Trotz said of the Backstrom and the rest of the trio’s play. “He’s one of our leaders. For us to have any success we’re going to need all four lines to contribute. His line was good tonight and got us a couple big goals.”
Backstrom started the year off slowly, finishing the regular-season with 15 fewer points than his 86-point campaign in 2016-17.
“I’ve never been worried about Nicky,” Trotz said. “He finds ways as a good pro to contribute. If you just look at the scoresheet, that doesn’t say enough about Nick Backstrom. I’ve been on his soapbox about how complete a player he is. I never really worry about Nick Backstrom. He’s a tremendous hockey player.”
After another crushing playoff defeat last year, Backstrom said his mind has been focused on the 2018 postseason. With his markers in Game Five, 30-year-old Swede now ranks first in franchise playoff history in assists, overtime goals, and game-winning goals. Backstrom leads the Caps with eight points in these playoffs
“I’ve been waiting for this to start,” Backstrom told reporters. “Playoffs, it’s where everyone wants to be. I want to play. I want to play for that championship. I started off a little slow, but I wasn’t too worried about it.”
Headline photo: Patrick McDermott
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
All original content on russianmachineneverbreaks.com is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)– unless otherwise stated or superseded by another license. You are free to share, copy, and remix this content so long as it is attributed, done for noncommercial purposes, and done so under a license similar to this one.