November 13, 2019

Washington Capitals Game 4 Recap: Backstrom returns with a bang in win over Canes

Guess who’s Back(strom), Back(strom) again

Nicklas Backstrom returned from his hip surgery and rehab to loud applause and much fanfare to face the Carolina Hurricanes, and with an assist on the Caps’ first power play, he wasted no time notching his first point of the season and his 47th against Carolina — more than he has against any other NHL team.

In the end, Backstrom accounted for a goal and two assists as the Washington Capitals downed the Canes 4-1 at Verizon Center to close their homestand with another win. 

For the second straight game, the Caps (3-1-0) came out flying, generating 17 shots in the first and looking like a team with a purpose.

“We didn’t try to do too much at the start, tried to simplify,” John Carlson said of the recent quick starts

With the top line of Evgeny Kuznetsov, Alex Ovechkin, and T.J. Oshie gelling of late, coach Barry Trotz opted to slot Backstrom on the second line between Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams.

After the refs whistled Brock McGinn of the Hurricanes for tripping (and nearly unsportsmanlike conduct) at 14:14, Backstrom wasted no time on the ensuing power play, creating  space and setting his men up. The first goal of the night resulted from a classic Bacsktrom pass from the half wall to Oshie, giving him an open slot just in front of the net. This was Oshie’s second power play goal in as many games.

But the Swedish pivot was also exceptional on the Caps’ first penalty kill of the night less than three minutes later, zooming into the Hurricanes’ defensive zone after a successful Caps clear and, with Williams buzzing nearby, threatening to score a short-handed goal.

By the end of the first period, it was clear: Backstrom’s back, alright (***Obligatory Backstreet Boys reference***).

When Coach Barry Trotz was asked of Backstrom’s play he responded “That shows how special he is. A guy who hasn’t played in any exhibition games and comes into the National Hockey League, in a fast game, against a fast team, and he looks like he didn’t miss a beat.”

The Caps quickly found themselves in penalty trouble in the second, with a slashing call on Carlson 6:18 into the frame while Jay Beagle was already in the box for tripping. During the ensuing 3-on-5 penalty kill, Braden Holtby lost his helmet before a shot whistled by into the net. Fortunately for Holtby and the Caps, the goal was waved off.

Holtby (18 saves) and the PK proved spectacular, smothering the Canes best opportunities of the night. The unit would finish with no goals allowed in five opportunities.

Canes goalie Cam Ward, however, was also excellent early, ensuring that the game remained tight through two periods despite facing 27 shots. Ward fended off breakaways from Kuznetsov and Brooks Laich as well as an Ovechkin charge on net. But Ward’s most spectacular stop came on an equally spectacular backhanded pass from Kuznetsov, behind the net, to Oshie. Ward appeared to have eyes in the back of his head and showed tremendous discipline in staying with the puck to his left rather than following Kuznetsov barreling the other way.

The third with some great Caps momentum. Looking like he was working towards setting up his wings, Backstrom was sitting in his usual spot halfway in the offensive zone along the boards. With a quick wrister into traffic, the puck slid past Ward giving Backstrom his first goal of the year. Showing a glimpse of hopefully more shots to come in his new second line position.

The solo Canes goal came on a Jeff Skinner wrister that seemed to power by Holtby, giving the Canes momentary hope for the comeback.

The Caps however answered quickly with a power play opportunity at the 5:43 mark, after the Canes’ Ryan Murphy was sent off for hooking. Once again, Backstrom gained the puck from a face-off draw. With a slight flick pass to Carlson at the blue line, Carlson took the opportunity to swipe one in. Thanks to a great screen by Johansson, the puck glided in. Caps went up 3-1.

When Backstrom was asked if he could of imagined a better first game back he responded, “I was a little bit lucky to be honest. I was coming into this game with an attitude just to win. That was all I was thinking about. It’s been a lot better tan the two first ones. It was also nice to be back on the ice. It’s fun to practice but it’s nicer to play games.”

The Caps weren’t quite done yet. Looking quieter than usual throughout the night, Ovechkin wanted to make his mark once again. With the final goal of the game at the 16:11 mark, Ovechkin lined up for an unassisted shot from the slot. This marks his third goal of the year and leaves him one point shy of his 900th career NHL point.

Welcome back Backstrom. Welcome back indeed.

CAPS NOTES:

  • Brooks Laich played in his 686th game tonight, the 10th most in franchise history.
  • T.J. Oshie led the Caps in shots with six shots on goal.
  • The Caps power play went two for two tonight and are three for four in the last two games. Washington has scored five power-play goals in their four games this season.
  • Washington outshot Carolina 34-19 and outhit the Hurricanes 19-16.

NEXT GAME: The Caps travel to Calgary on Tuesday to begin the Canadian road trip at 9 p.m.

About Jacqueline Martin

Jacqueline Martin is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page. She grew up in Northern Virginia and has developed a deep love for all things sports and all things DC. While attending American University she worked for the athletics department and followed the Men’s NCAA Basketball team to their first ever apperance in the tourney. She is an aspiring journalist whose ideal day job is running a large DC sports bar that favored only DC teams. If she is not in her office you may find her at Kettler attempting to skate backwards. You can follow her on twitter @JacqueMMartin.

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