Backstrom has goal, assist as Capitals beat Devils 4-3
WASHINGTON (AP) — Nicklas Backstrom scored the go-ahead goal and then added an assist on the night Washington celebrated his 1,000th career point, and the Capitals beat the New Jersey Devils 4-3 on Saturday night.
Alex Ovechkin scored his team-leading 42nd goal on a third-period power play to give Washington breathing room after Backstrom’s sixth of the season put the Capitals in front for the first time just under seven minutes into the period.
Connor McMichael and Tom Wilson also scored for the Capitals, who began the night 14 points ahead of Columbus for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference. Vitek Vanecek stopped 29 shots.
“We talked about the month of March,” said head coach Peter Laviolette after his team’s ninth win since it began. “There was obviously a couple of months, January and February, weren’t up to anybody’s standards. ... Month of March, sometimes you can just clear the deck, turn the page on a month and start a fresh month, and we did and it’s going in the right direction.”
Backstrom now sits at 1,006 points in a career spent entirely in Washington, after a game that began with his family and team officials joining him on the ice to recognize him passing the 1,000 threshold on March 9 in a loss at Edmonton.
“It was obviously a great night and fun night,” Backstrom said. “All emotional at the start and then play a game right after, but then obviously it finished the way me and the team wanted.”
Jack Hughes scored his 22nd goal and added his 30th assist, and Damon Severson and Jesper Bratt also scored for the last-place Devils, who missed a rare chance to secure a season-series victory over Washington. Nico Daws finished with 18 saves.
McMichael tied it 2-2 early in the third as the Capitals played on during a delayed penalty, one-timing a pass from Justin Schultz across the line from inside the crease.
Backstrom put Washington ahead when he found space inside the left faceoff circle and beat Daws through traffic to the top right corner.
Bratt scored his 22nd to pull New Jersey back within 4-3 inside the final minute.
“We gave a good effort to come back there in the third scoring that goal to make it 4-3 and then we had chances to tie it up,” Severson said. “But overall the game could’ve went either way, to be honest.”
Backstrom’s goal resulted in a 5-minute delay as fans threw commemorative, giveaway nerf apples onto the ice in celebration. The apples, which had to be swept and shoveled off the playing surface by players and team staff, read “Niky: 1,000 points” with Backstrom’s silhouette serving as the letter ‘I’.
“I was like, ‘This is amazing,’” Backstrom said of the celebration. “I mean, I didn’t score a hat trick, but it was fun that the crowd did it. It was hilarious, I think. And then all the players just keep shoveling. They needed some help. It was just an awesome experience.”
The Swedish-born Backstrom was honored pregame with a video tribute and several gifts from the Capitals in a red-carpet, on-ice ceremony. Joining him were his parents, brother, fiancee and three children as well as longtime teammates Ovechkin and Wilson.
NOTES: Hughes has 32 points (13 goals, 19 assists) in his last 25 games dating back to Jan. 19. ... Four of Severson’s 36 points this season have come in three games against Washington (two goals, two assists). ... Ovechkin’s goal eventually stood as the game-winner, tying him for second-most in NHL history with Gordie Howe at 121 for his career. ... Backstrom’s assist was the 742nd of his career, tying him with Denis Potvin for 45th on the NHL all-time list. ... Washington improved to 5-3-2 when playing the second game of a back-to-back set.
Devils: Host Montreal on Sunday night.
Capitals: Host Carolina on Monday night.
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