Let me set the scene. It was Game Six between the Capitals and Penguins. The Caps led the series 3-2. The teams were in the first overtime. And that’s when it happened. After receiving a pass from Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov raced in all alone against Penguins goaltender Matt Murray.
“Please score. Just f*cking please score,” Ovechkin recalled thinking.
Kuznetsov did indeed deposit the puck into the back of the net, sending the Capitals into a wild celebration. The moment marked the first time in the Alex Ovechkin Era that the Caps had beaten the Penguins in the playoffs and advanced to the Eastern Conference Final. Except there was one person missing on the ice: Nicklas Backstrom.
Backstrom, who had injured his right hand blocking a shot the game before, was forced out of the lineup. When Ovechkin entered the locker room, he let out a primal roar. Then he found his partner in crime and gave him a big hug. After years of brutal playoff exits, the pair finally advanced to the third round.
During the tender moment, Ovechkin, still in his gear, embraced Backstrom, who was wearing a suit. Their smiles could barely be contained by their faces.
While speaking to the media in Tampa on Friday, Backstrom spoke about that hug.
“Yeah, it was just special. I think me, him, and Beast (Braden Holtby) have been here the longest,” Backstrom said. “It was just a special moment. We’ve been through a lot together. I feel like it was just a look in our eyes, like, finally, it only took us 11 years.
Finally got a chance to ask Nicklas Backstrom about the embrace he shared w/ Alex Ovechkin in the locker room after eliminating the #Pens. “There was just a look in our eyes, like, finally. It only took us 11 years,” he cracked. #Caps #ALLCAPS pic.twitter.com/ZBr7f2Iqge
— Tarik El-Bashir⌨️🎙🏒 (@TarikNBCS) May 18, 2018
Backstrom isn’t the only one who has spoken about the duo’s special relationship.
“He’s been a lot of the success to the Caps,” Capitals head coach Barry Trotz added. “Just as Alex gets a lot of the – he’s sort of the lightning rod to a lot of successes or failures. Nick has been the sidekick, sort of the Batman and Robin type of thing. They’ve been together, lived all this with a couple other guys on the team.”
Ovechkin also described what Backstrom meant to the team ahead of the Swedish center’s return in Game Four.
“If he’s going to be in the lineup, it’s going to give us more room to create with the lines and the team’s going to be happy,” Ovechkin said. “He’s our leader. We all love him.”
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) May 17, 2018
Earlier this week, the Washington Post’s Scott Allen spoke to David Kottler, the manager of Mamma Lucia’s Bethesda location, who deliver Ovechkin’s regular food order. Buried in that interview, Kottler revealed another tid-bit of information about Ovechkin and Backstrom’s day-to-day relationship.
“Ovi does whatever he does,” Kottler said. “I think [Nicklas] Backstrom likes to come over and grab some food from him sometimes.”
Donya Abramo also contributed to this article.
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