In the history of the Washington Capitals, a history that includes five Hall of Fame players, no one had previously been able to reach the 500 assist plateau. Nicklas Backstrom became the first on Saturday night with an assist on a goal by T.J. Oshie that would prove to be the game-winner over Ottawa.
In typical fashion, Backstrom sounded relieved to soon be out of the spotlight.
”I think it’s something that’s been built up for the last couple weeks,” Backstrom said, ”but it feels good that it’s done so we can stop talking about it.”
Backstrom admitted in an interview with Joe Beninati that he was trying not to think of the milestone because it had been a distraction to him the past few games. It must not have been distracting him too much, however, as the veteran center earned assists No. 499 and 500 in consecutive games and now has 11 points in his last 15.
In the opening minutes of Saturday’s game, defenseman Nate Schmidt passed the puck to Backstrom who took it into the offensive zone, then flicked a no-look backhand pass to T.J. Oshie. Oshie hit the one-timer into the top shelf for what would prove to be the only goal of the game.
Backstrom was quick to give credit to his teammates afterwards.
“It was a hell of a shot there by Osh and a good play by Schmidtty there too in the middle.”
Backstrom is now the 10th Swedish-born player in NHL history to reach 500 assists and the second-fastest among those 10 to do so behind only Peter Forsberg (551 games played vs. 691). He is also the third-fastest player to reach 500 assists among active NHL players behind Sidney Crosby and Jaromir Jagr (642 GP).
The list of accomplishments for the 29-year-old Gavle, Sweden native is already a long one that cements him as one of the top players in the NHL and in Capitals’ franchise history.
Just don’t tell him that.
“Got a big congrats from the guys here so that was nice,” he said. “ It’s nice to get it over with and look ahead here.”