With the Capitals down 2-0 to the Ottawa Senators on Saturday, Alex Ovechkin took over with two goals in the second period to force overtime. But even Ovechkin can't do it all by himself. At some point, the Caps needed another weapon, someone to step up and help bring them out of their current slump. Nicklas Backstrom delivered.
In overtime, Backstrom was able to steal away the puck from Josh Norris and found himself alone on net. He out-waited goalie Matt Murray before deftly backhanding the puck over the outstretched pad and into the roof of the net for the overtime winner.
“The puck was bouncing a little bit, so I was just trying to make it flat," Backstrom said. "Then I got too close to shoot, I thought. You’ve got to trust a good old backhand sometime.”
“It was unbelievable," Garnet Hathaway said. "I wish I could do it.”
The 2021-22 season has been a grind for Backstrom. A lingering hip injury from last season kept him out until Dec. 15. He played one game before entering COVID protocol, returned for two games before another illness took him out of the lineup again.
Now Backstrom has played in six straight games and he has scored in each of the last two.
“I think haven’t played in seven, eight months. It’s going to take me a couple games," Backstrom said. "I think I’m starting to get the timing back, obviously conditioning too. I mean I’m feeling better. Getting some more touches. Just feel comfortable again.”
Now that he has finally been able to string some games together, Backstrom is finally starting to look comfortable and up to speed.
“Yeah you’re just seeing Nicklas Backstrom, right?" Hathaway said. "What an unbelievable player and huge for us to have back in the lineup.”
Backstrom returning as a top offensive playmaker is a huge lftt for a scuffling Capitals team that has found offense hard to come by of late. Washington had a 2-4-2 record in 2022 heading into Saturday's game with only 20 goals in those eight games. The power play was also scuffling at 14.3%.
If Backstrom is back to playing like himself, that's a boost to both 5-on-5 and special teams play and a big help to Ovechkin.
"I think everybody knows what he brings to the table and what he brings to the lineup, but it's really nice to see him have a big moment like that after a long, four or five months where its a lot of days where you're trying to get back to where you want to be," head coach Peter Laviolette said. "I think he's looked better every game, but it's nice for him to have that moment and end that game, a big moment and score a big goal for us."