The Washington Capitals were down 3-0 to the New York Islanders early in the second period. Then Alex Ovechkin leveled JG Pageau into the boards and the team started to find its game.
Garnet Hathway first squeaked an Alex Ovechkin rebound past Ilya Sorokin while falling to the ice. Three minutes later, Tom Wilson brought the Caps even closer after scoring his first goal since returning from major knee surgery.
Wilson combined with Nicklas Backstrom on the tally.
After some nice cycling in the corner, Backstrom began skating the puck behind the net before sending a blind backhanded pass to Wilson in the slot. With two dumbfounded Islanders in front of the net, Wilson shot the puck past Sorokin who was leaning toward the other side.
backy delicious 🍎 pic.twitter.com/Iff3VCrCHp
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) January 17, 2023
“[Backstrom] is a player when he has the puck you try to get open and more often than not he’ll find you,” Wilson said during the second intermission to NBC Sports Washington’s Al Koken. “We had a few months to work on that one.”
The apple gave Backstrom the most assists in franchise history against Islanders (45). It’s also the fourth-most among active NHL players.
Nicklas Backstrom recorded the primary assist on Wilson's goal, his second assist in four games this season. Backstrom's 45 career assists against the Islanders are the fourth most among active players.
— CapitalsPR (@CapitalsPR) January 17, 2023
This is the fourth game Wilson has played in since returning from major surgery on his left knee.
During his four months rehabbing at MedStar Capitals Iceplex with Nicklas Backstrom, the two players became even closer and made their returns together against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Wilson spent the vast majority of his rehab process right alongside another key piece on the Capitals roster in Nicklas Backstrom. The two have, partly out of sheer necessity, been virtually inseparable in the gym, in the locker room when the rest of their teammates were on the road, and most importantly on the ice as they worked to get back into shape.
When asked if the two had become best friends, Wilson joked that Backstrom had given up Mike Green for him.
“No, I’m just kidding,” Wilson said, scared of the consequences of such words. “If Greenie heard that, he might be upset.”
Wilson then explained the nuance of his close relationship with Backstrom.
“We’ve always been close and he’s always been a mentor and a leader for me,” Wilson said. “We’re definitely spending a lot of time together. There’s not too many guys every day I come to the rink where I have to be good and I have to push myself because I feel like I owe that to him as a leader. He just has that demeanor about him. Everyone around him wants to be better. It’s great to bounce conversations off each other. The ups, downs, everything. We would’ve both rather not be in that situation, but I was fortunate to have him there.”
Laviolette put the two players together on the third line against the Islanders and it paid dividends tonight.
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