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Takeaways: Backstrom, Capitals Find Spark, Outlast Devils



Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Saturday belonged to Nicklas Backstrom at Capital One Arena, as the Washington Capitals were able to find their footing thanks to a strong final frame from No. 19 and company.

The Capitals’ start was far from ideal, with the team trailing the Devils 2-1 after being outplayed for the first 40 minutes. However, Washington came out a new club in the final period, and thanks to a multi-point outing from Nicklas Backstrom and goals from Alex Ovechkin, Connor McMichael and Tom Wilson, the Capitals rallied and hung on for a 4-3 win over the Devils.

Washington has now won back-to-back games and is getting back on track with a strong March. Here are all the takeaways from the victory:

Backstrom Takes Over D.C. As Capitals Overcome Slow Start

The Capitals kicked off Saturday with a pregame ceremony for Backstrom, who hit the 1,000-point mark back on March 9. Backstrom received a golden stick, a Tiffany crystal and custom wedges for his accomplishment, while fans also received rubber apples as a giveaway to commemorate “N1KY” night.

Washington didn’t get off to the best start to the evening, as the team couldn’t match the Devils’ pressure through the first 40 minutes and found itself trailing 2-1. However, No. 19 made the most of the festivities and led the Capitals’ rally. He dished a goal and an assist in the final frame to give Washington a 4-2 advantage, and though Jesper Bratt struck late to pull New Jersey within one, Washington was able to hang on to the win.

Backstrom’s standout performance not only secured the victory but also led to fans celebrating in one of the best ways possible as the squishy apples flooded the ice in celebration. The Swede now has 25 points through 34 appearances this season. In a full 82-game campaign, he would be on pace for 60 points.

GOTTA SEE IT: Fans Flood Ice With Rubber Apples After Backstrom Scores For Capitals

Ovechkin, Wilson, Kuznetsov Stay Hot

Not only did McMichael continue his strong play, but Ovechkin, Wilson and Evgeny Kuznetsov proved clutch for the Capitals yet again.

Ovechkin picked up his 42nd goal of the season and 772nd career strike to make it 4-2 in the third. He now has goals in six of his last seven outings and sits four goals behind Auston Matthews for the NHL scoring lead. In the bigger picture, the 36-year-old is just 30 goals shy of passing Gordie Howe for the second-most goals in NHL history and is 123 strikes away from breaking Wayne Gretzky’s all-time record. With his goal, Ovechkin also tied Jari Kurri for the 21st-most points in NHL history (1,398) and is two points away from 1,400 in his career.

In addition to Ovechkin, Wilson also gave the Capitals life and continued his impressive campaign. He went on a 2-on-1 break with Conor Sheary and picked up his 20th goal of the season. That marks Wilson’s third 20-goal season and his second in the last three yeaers. He also extended his point streak to four games and has a career-high 46 points on the season.

Kuznetsov also continued his standout year, picking up an assist to extend his point streak to a career-high 12 games. No. 92 is now up to 65 points through 64 games this season. He had just 29 points through 41 outings last season.

McMichael Keeps The Good Times Rolling

Since switching to the pivot position, Connor McMichael has been doing an outstanding job for the Capitals. The 20-year-old appears more confident in his overall game and is generating a lot of speed and pressure on the forecheck. His hard work paid off on Saturday, as he crashed the net and buried a great pass from Justin Schultz to open the scoring for the Capitals in the third period.

McMichael now has points in three of his last six outings and is up to nine goals and 18 points through 61 games. Overall, he looked solid throughout the night and ended up with two shots and a +/- rating of plus-2 through 12:05 minutes. He also won four of seven faceoffs (57 percent).

Sammi’s Top Shelf Takes

  • John Carlson picked up two points for his ninth multi-point outing of the season, and he also now has assists in seven of his last nine games and five of his last six overall. He also led all Washington skaters with 24:11 minutes of ice time and three shots.
  • Ovechkin, Lars Eller, Garnet Hathaway and Martin Fehervary brought the boom, each dishing out a team-leading three hits.
  • Vitek Vanecek again came up huge on several occasions, stopping 35 of 38 shots (.921 save percentage). He is now 17-9-5 with a .917 save percentage and 2.45 GAA through 34 outings this season.
  • Sheary picked up his 18th assist of the season and now has four points in his last six games and points in back-to-back games.
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