Truth be told, Nicklas Backstrom never really wanted to wear Wayne Gretzky’s sacred number 99 and within two weeks he won’t.
After petitioning Dynamo Moscow and the KHL to change his number, Backstrom has been granted permission to switch from No. 99 to No. 69, beginning Nov. 14 when Dynamo returns to action following the Karjala Cup tournament.
Backstrom wears No. 19 with the Capitals, but that number was taken by Dynamo’s Denis Kokarev.
“It was wrong,” Backstrom told HockeyExpressen.se, via Google Translate “I had not so much to choose from when I came here [Oct. 19] and wanted to have a number with a 9. So I got the 99th. But even before the first match, I asked to change, it felt wrong simply. Ninety-nine is Gretzky’s number.
“But Dynamo said that the number  is already registered, and therefore I must have it in two games. Then it will be a new number. … I'll take anything but that.”
Backstrom will wear No. 99 on Friday against Spartak. The KHL then goes on a hiatus from Nov. 5 through Nov. 13 to allow players to participate in the Karjala Cup.
No one in the history of the Capitals has ever worn No. 99, which was retired after Gretzky hung up his skates for good in 1999. Whenever the NHL resumes play, Backstrom will ditch the No. 69 for his old No. 19.
Only one player in the history of the Caps – does anyone remember enforcer Mel Angelstad? – has ever worn No. 69. Angelstad became the first NHL player to wear that number during the 2003-04 season when he played in two games for the Caps.
The Caps could not shake Buffalo for two periods, but a dominant finish on Saturday helped them pull away for a 5-1 win. Here's how they finally put away the Sabres.
A quick start
Strong starts go a long way towards helping a team in the middle of a slump. It's a confidence boost for a group in desperate need of one and the Caps got that boost on Saturday from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov used his wheels to zip in behind the defense and score just 50 seconds into the game. Washington led 1-0 at the end of the first, just the second time in 19 games they have held a lead after the opening 20 minutes.
RELATED: SEE THE 3 STARS FROM CAPS-SABRES HERE
Andre Burakovsky snapping a second period slump
It looked in the second period like the Caps were caught trying to protect the lead again, but Andre Burakovsky woke the team back up with his incredible highlight end-to-end goal. It really looked like Buffalo was going to tie the game at one, but instead, Burakovsky extended the lead to two. Going end to end the way he did shows a player who is starting to play with some confidence, something Burakovsky has lacked for much of the season.
Ovechkin's two-goal third period
Buffalo would not go away. Sam Reinhart got the Sabres on the board just 14 seconds into the third period and suddenly the Caps found themselves in a one-goal game again. But Ovechkin ended any hopes for the comeback as he struck in the top corner of the net on the power play from the office. He would later add a deflection goal to extend the lead to 5-1, giving a scuffling Washington team the dominant win they so sorely needed.
The Capitals needed a win in the worst way and they got one, dispatching the Buffalo Sabres in dominating fashion with a 5-1 win.
Washington was locked in a tight game leading 2-0 heading into the third period when Sam Reinhart scored just 14 seconds into the period to pull Buffalo to within one. The Caps then slammed the door shut, scoring three unanswered goals to put away the Sabres.
Here are the three stars of the game.
1. Alex Ovechkin: This was career game No. 983 for Ovechkin, tying him for the franchise record for most games played with Calle Johansson. Ovechkin very fittingly celebrated the occasion with two goals. The first came on a power play goal from the office, but there was no need for a one-timer on this one. The Sabres gave him all the time he needed to aim up the shot and wrist it into the top corner.
He added a second goal late off a deflection from a John Carlson shot.
2. Evgeny Kuznetsov: To say the Caps have struggled at the start of games would be an understatement. In the last 18 games, Washington has held the lead after the first period only once. Kuznetsov made sure this game started off on the right foot as he scored just 50 seconds into the game. He turned on the jets in the neutral zone to turn the edge on Jason Pominville then easily skated around a weak, ill-advised challenge from Robin Lehner before flinging the puck into the yawning net.
It was the fastest goal to start a game by the Caps this season. It was just the start of what would be a four-point night for the Caps' center as he added three assists.
3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky had the highlight of the game with his end-to-end goal in the second period to put Washington up 2-0. He looked like he was shot out of a cannon as he launched himself from the defensive zone, streaked down the center of the ice and in on net to slide the puck through the Lehner's five-hole.
Look how Burakovsky was able to slice through the Sabres' defense. Buffalo had him surrounded, but his speed caught the Sabres off-guard and they were not able to recover in time to actually slow him down.