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Backstrom defends hit that led to game-winner

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Backstrom defends hit that led to game-winner

NEW YORK – While Capitals fans will gleefully remember Ovechkin’s incredible pass and Joel Ward’s dramatic goal with 1.4 seconds remaining in Thursday night’s

wild 2-1 win in Madison Square Garden, the New York Rangers and their fans will remember the questionable hit that led to the goal.

With 5 seconds separating the two teams from sudden-death overtime, Rangers defenseman Dan Boyle turned his back on Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom and appeared to be checked in the head by Backstrom’s right arm.

“I saw [Boyle] get hit and go down,” Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh said, “and I kind of hesitated, just to see. I knew he was down and I thought [the referees] were going to blow it [dead].”

Instead, Alex Ovechkin picked up the loose puck, drew McDonagh and Derek Stepan toward him behind the net, and fed a brilliant pass to Ward, who was all alone in the slot.

“That was the loudest I screamed in a while,” Ward said. “Probably the loudest I’ve screamed at [Ovechkin]. I didn’t know how much time was left to be honest. I knew I was in front and I was just screaming.  He made an unbelievable pass across his body. I just took a hard whack at it and sure enough it beat the clock.”

RELATED: Joel Ward stuns Rangers with last-second goal

Lundqvist said that when he saw Ovechkin swing around the net, he thought the puck would come out to his right, not to his left, and when he tried to recover he left his pads open for Ward to stuff it between them.

“When it came out I was too late,” Lundqvist said. “It was a tough one.”

As the Capitals celebrated in front of Lundqvist, Boyle dropped to one knee. He slowly skated off the ice and headed down the tunnel with Rangers trainer Jim Ramsay.

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault was screaming at the officials as the final horn sounded but when asked about the no-call on Backstrom after the game, he said, “I’m not going to comment on referees. Don’t ask me about it.”

Backstrom made no apologies when asked specifically about the hit on Boyle that led to the game-winning goal.

“I didn’t see the puck but I knew there was five seconds left and everything can happen,” Backstrom said. “I mean, it’s something we’ve been taught from when we were kids, to play until the whistle and that’s what we did.

“To be honest with you, I haven’t seen [the hit], so I can’t really say anything about it. But it looked like he was standing by the wall there. Hits like that happen every game, so …”

It will be interesting to see if Boyle, 38, is well enough to return for Game 2 and if the NHL will review the play. Vigneault did not provide an update on the veteran defenseman after the game. The Rangers already are expected to be without top-line right wing Mats Zuccarello for the remainder of the series after he was struck in the head by a McDonagh slapshot against the Penguins.

If Boyle cannot play in Game 2 on Saturday afternoon, Matt Hunwick would likely take his place. Hunwick played in place of Kevin Klein in Round 1.

As for Capitals coach Barry Trotz, he said his team can play much better than it did in the series opener and will need to if the Caps home to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the series.

“I don’t think we played very good today,” said Trotz, who will give his players the day off on Friday. “I know that we’ve got another level in our game. We really had to push. I thought they were probably a little fresher than us.”

MORE CAPITALS: Ward's late goal wins Game 1 for Caps

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How Nicklas Backstrom saved the Capitals 3 different times in Game 5

How Nicklas Backstrom saved the Capitals 3 different times in Game 5

The Capitals found themselves in deep trouble on Saturday.

Game 5 at Capital One Arena provided Washington a golden opportunity to take a 3-2 lead in their 2018 Stanley Cup Playoff first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets. A loss -- another home loss -- would have been a devastating blow.

After battling back from a 2-0 series deficit, to lose in Washington would mean facing elimination in Columbus. Game 5 was the game the Caps needed and it would have slipped away from them if not for Nicklas Backstrom.

The Caps’ most underrated superstar -- the one who is constantly overshadowed by the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby -- took center stage on Saturday as he tipped a Dmitry Orlov shot past Sergei Bobrovsky at 11:53 of overtime to seal the victory for Washington.

“It was just a good shot from [Orlov],” Backstrom said after the game. “I thought before he had a chance to block it, and I got a tip on it, and it’s usually what happens in the playoffs. Tip goals or rebound goals. That’s the way it is. It was nice.”

Backstrom’s overtime goal capped off a three-point night for the veteran center, who also scored in the first period and assisted on a goal from T.J. Oshie.

The team ended up needing every one of his points.

From the start, Columbus outplayed Washington. With the series tied 2-2, a best-of-three mentality took over and the Blue Jackets pushed hard for the pivotal Game 5 win.

It is in those very moments that team needs its superstar players to step up. In Game 3, it was Holtby who stole the show to help Washington steal a win in Columbus.

On Saturday, it was Backstrom.

Columbus converted a shorthanded goal to seize a 1-0 lead in what was shaping up to be a dominant first period. A fluke goal from Backstrom, however, made sure the score was knotted up, 1-1, after the opening frame.

With the puck behind the goal line, Backstrom tried to slip a pass through the crease. Bobrovsky got a piece of the puck with his stick, but the amount of spin on the pass forced the puck to carom off the stick, off the back of Bobrovsky himself, and into the net.

“I was trying to make a pass,” Backstrom said. “Honestly, got lucky. I don’t know who came back-door there but I was trying for him. I’ll take it.”

After a back and forth game, the Blue Jackets came out swinging to start the third. Down 3-2, Columbus tied the game just 2:30 in and made a real push to win the game in regulation. Washington was outshot 16-1 in the third and looked like they had no push at all.

But the Caps looked like a different team when they took the ice for the extra frame. What happened in between periods?

“As I was leaving the room after the period, I could hear guys, the right guys, all saying the right things,” head coach Barry Trotz said.

When later asked if one of those guys was Backstrom, Trotz said, “Absolutely. He's one of the leaders on our team. They were all talking about let's make sure we're doing the right things. There's a lot of pride, lot of good leadership in that room.”

Whatever Backstrom and the other leaders said did the trick. Washington made a strong push in overtime leading to Backstrom’s game-winning goal.

This isn’t the first time Backstrom has delivered. Saturday’s overtime tally is the fourth of his career. That’s the most in franchise history and tied for fifth in NHL history.

Through his efforts on the ice, the Caps were able to erase a bad first period and steal the win in overtime. But it also took a big effort off the ice to get the job done.

“If you just look at the scoresheet, that doesn't say enough of about Nick Backstrom, his contribution from in the dressing room to on the ice to key moments to key faceoffs,” Trotz said.

“I've been on his soapbox about how complete a player he is and I never really worry about Nick Backstrom. He's got enough games under his belt, he's got enough stats to back it up and he's played huge minutes and he's one of our leaders. He's a tremendous hockey player.”

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John Tortorella guarantees series will return to Washington for Game 7

John Tortorella guarantees series will return to Washington for Game 7

After losing Game 1 and Game 2 at home, Alex Ovechkin declared "It’s going to be fun when we bounce back and going to tie the series and come back here and play Game 5 at home.”

Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella seems to be taking a similar tactic.

The Capitals won Game 5 in overtime on Saturday in a game that could prove to be emotionally draining for the Blue Jackets in a number of ways.

  • It was Washington's third straight win
  • Columbus was the better team for the majority of the game, but still took the loss
  • The Blue Jackets now face elimination despite holding a 2-0 series lead to start and losing only once in regulation

Tortorella has become famous for his fiery postgame press conferences in the past, including abruptly walking out after Game 4's presser when he declared "We sucked" to the media.

Saturday's was another fun one.

In a presser that lasted less than two minutes, Tortorella twice said, "We'll be back here for Game 7."

After such a draining game, Tortorella was asked how he would get them ready for what is sure to be an emotionally charged Game 6.

"I won't have to say a damn word to them," Tortorella said. "No. We'll be back here for Game 7."

The Blue Jackets will have to win Game 6 in Columbus to make that happen.

Barry Trotz was asked for his reaction after Tortorella's comments.

"What else are you going to say? That's good. He wants to get it out there, he believes in his team just as I believe in my team. It's our job for that not to happen."

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