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Capitals Takeaways

Takeaways: Backstrom, Ovechkin Clutch, Capitals Trust Process To Best Sens



Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Heading toward the end of the first period, the Washington Capitals found themselves without a shot on goal and down early to the Ottawa Senators after a bit of a slow start. Ultimately, as the team balanced a number of blue line absences, patience and sticking with the process proved to be key to a vital 3-2 victory overtime win over Ottawa on Saturday.

Washington now sits in a tie for third in the Metro with a 23-10-9 record (55 points) but remains in Wild Card position.

Here are all the takeaways from the victory.

Capitals Overcome Another Rough Start

Washington fell into a 1-0 hole just 1:22 minutes into the game when Thomas Chabot scored on a point shot that went through traffic in front and beat Vitek Vanecek. The Capitals would trail 3-0 in shots up until the 5:21 minute mark when their first power-play opportunity would help turn the tide and generate some offense. Washington ended up with five shots heading into the second and seemed to have a jump back in its game.

“I thought we played really hard… It didn’t look good and it didn’t smell good in the first period, but our guys were working,” head coach Peter Laviolette said. “When you walk away and you don’t have any even-strength shots, you say, ‘Oh, that was a miserable period.’ But it wasn’t, it was just a tight, fast period. And you had to play the hand that was dealt, and that’s the hand that was dealt. I thought our guys stuck with it and tried to eliminate frustration.”

Then, in the middle frame, Zach Sanford scored after Dennis Cholowski got beat on the backcheck to make it a 2-0 hockey game. The Capitals upped the ante, managing 16 shots in the second period before pulling off the comeback in the end.

“This was a game we wanted to battle the entire time, and I thought we did,” Garnet Hathaway said. “We got off on the wrong foot to start, and we started getting more pucks to the net, to be honest with you… I think you could see the shot totals climbing a little bit and the puck possession in our favor, and we then began to limit their transition team, which they are good at.”

Shake, Rattle And Roll: Ovechkin Comes In Clutch

With the Capitals trailing 2-0 heading into the third period, the captain took matters into his own hands. He led Washington as the team turned the pressure up in the final frame, and he ended Matt Murray’s shutout bid with a rocket in front to make it 2-1 early in the third.

Later on, he ended up tying the game on a similar fashion — though it took a moment to confirm it as a good goal after the light failed to go off behind the net.

“I thought it hit the crossbar,” Ovechkin admitted. “That’s why I try to play to the whistle or the horn.”

Ultimately, his two goals were enough to force overtime, and ultimately, secure the win. He led all forwards with 21:46 minutes and was also a plus-3.

“Obviously we knew it was going to be a hard game. We knew they were going to come out flying and play physical… we just keep grinding it out and try to find a way to get a win like that. I think it’s mentally good for us, obviously with all the situation right now with injuries, you know, COVID. Lost couple key players. It is how I only say, no excuse. We just have to go out there and try to get points.”

Ovechkin is now on a six-game point streak and is up to a league-leading 29 goals and 58 points through 42 games this season. He continues to make quite a case for himself in the Hart conversation and is on pace for 57 goals and 112 points this season, which would tie his career-high scoring total set back in 2009.

Backstrom Continues Strides Forward

Since returning to the lineup full time after rehabbing a hip injury and later dealing with COVID and the flu, Backstrom has made an immediate impact for Washington. The Swedish center picked up an assist on Ovechkin’s game-tying goal, and four of his six helpers this season have been on Ovi tallies.

Later, Backstrom put on a show in overtime, showing great patience and skill alone in front before roofing a backhander past Murray to secure the Capitals’ second OT win this season. It was his second goal of the season, and he now has goals in back-to-back games.

“I call it sexy goal,” Ovechkin told Al Koken postgame in regard to Backstrom’s strike.

“It was unbelievable,” Hathaway said of the play. “I wish I could do it… You’re just seeing Nicklas Backstrom, right? What an unbelievable player and huge for us to have

Through nine appearances this season, No. 19 has dished two goals and eight points and continues to make progress as he continues recovering and getting back up to game speed. He is also improving in the face-off dot and is helping getting the power play to generate more chances.

“I think I’m starting to get the timing back, obviously conditioning, too,” Backstrom said. “I mean, I’m feeling better. Getting some more touches. Just feel comfortable again.”

Sammi’s Top Shelf Takes

  • The Capitals were outstanding for the most part in the face-off dot against Ottawa. Eller won seven of eight draws (88 percent), while Dowd went 13-for-15 (87 percent) and Backstrom went 11-for-15 (73 percent).
  • Evgeny Kuznetsov picked up a secondary helper on Ovechkin’s first goal to extend his point streak to seven games. He also led Washington with seven shots against the Sens.
  • Justin Schultz led all skaters with 24:59 minutes of ice time. Martin Fehervary also passed the 24-minute mark as the Capitals made do without three of their top-4 blueliners.
  • Vanecek picked up his second win over his last three starts and stopped 20 of 22 shots (.909 save percentage). He is now 20-8-5 with a 2.54 GAA and .909 save percentage through 22 games this season. With those results, he could be seeing more starts going forward.
  • I thought Michal Kempny looked solid, as did Trevor van Riemsdyk. That pairing took good care of the puck and showed great awareness at both ends.
  • Stick taps to Carl Hagelin, who played in career game No. 700 on Saturday.
  • It was a huge physical game for Washington, as Kempny, Ovechkin, Hathaway and Tom Wilson — who also managed five shots — all had four hits each.
  • After seeing his ice time spike on Thursday, Connor McMichael saw just 5:50 minutes against the Sens.
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