Capitals

Capitals

A Washington Capitals team in desperate need of offense found it on Wednesday night against the rival Pittsburgh Penguins, scoring seven goals in a 7-1 blowout win.

In recent years, these would be the moments in which Alex Ovechkin put the team on his back and forced his will on opponents, but it was a different line that carried the burden on Wednesday.

The Caps finished with seven goals on the night, but Ovechkin’s only goal came in the third period with the score already 5-1 and the game well in hand. In fact, he was not even on the top line for this game.

Marcus Johansson, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie took the first rushes in pregame warmups, revealing that they would be the team’s top trio to start the game. Barry Trotz’s faith in that line was rewarded as they were by far the team’s best.

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Backstrom led the way with two goals and three assists while Oshie contributed another two goals and two assists in what was a dominant performance.

“When everybody's pulling on the rope the same way and have the same focus, then it's pretty powerful,” Trotz said.

After scoring only five goals in their last four games, Trotz again shifted lines heading into Wednesday’s game, but he kept the Johansson, Backstrom, Oshie line intact after a solid performance Tuesday against Columbus.

 

The move paid off. The line has found instant chemistry since coming together and looks like it could be a real threat for the team going forward.

“[Backstrom and Johansson] are so great at puck possession, so great at creating space for their linemates that I think anyone that plugs in with those two is going to have success,” Oshie said. “We're finding it right now and it feels good to put some in the back of the net.”

Oshie’s two goals now pull him even with Ovechkin for the team lead. It was Backstrom’s performance, however, that had the team buzzing after his five-point game.

Trotz described Backstrom’s play as “phenomenal” while Braden Holtby said the veteran center has "been stepping up his game every day last few games and it showed the group that it pays off when you do the right things."

Backstrom has spent the majority of his career trying to find a way to get the puck to Ovechkin. Now that he is on a line without the Great 8, he has been calling his own number more and more. The results? Backstrom now has three goals in his past two games and has established himself as an offensive threat in his own right.

“He's got a terrific shot,” Trotz said. “It's quick, it's accurate and it's very deceptive.”

“I'm going to shoot when I get my chances and when I think it's time to shoot,” Backstrom said, “But obviously maybe I should try to shoot it more when I get a one on one.”

Trotz has spent much of the season trying to find the best line combinations and it really looks like he may have something with Johansson, Backstrom and Oshie.

At least, Ovechkin thinks so as he said after the game, “I think Backy line today was unstoppable.”

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