Capitals 3, Canadiens 2, SO
Blow a two-goal lead, win in the shootout for the second game in
But this one was different for the Washington Capitals, if only
because Nicklas Backstrom was on the ice.
Welcome back, Backstrom, just in time for the crucial games that
will determine if the Capitals make the playoffs.
Washington’s best player over the first half of the season
returned Saturday night after 40 games away due to a concussion,
and he won 12 of his 18 faceoffs and provided an immeasurable
psychological boost in a 3-2 shootout win over the Montreal
”He’s one of those guys that lightens the room up,” Washington
forward Troy Brouwer said. ”He’s very well-liked by everybody on
the team and you always have a good time when you’re with him, so
whenever you get to see him back – plus the smile on his face, how
he’s been feeling and acting around the room the last couple days,
knowing he was going to play tonight – it’s a big pick-up.”
The win, coupled with Buffalo’s 4-3 loss to Toronto, moved the
eighth-place Capitals two points clear of the ninth-place Sabres
with three games to play in the regular season.
Washington also moved within two points of Southeast Division
But if there’s a worrying trend for the Capitals, it comes from
the fact that they essentially put on a repeat performance from
Thursday, when they also lost a 2-0 lead at Boston before getting a
3-2 shootout win.
”Two leads the last two games,” Washington defenseman Dennis
Wideman said. ”We have to find a way to keep pushing and keep
pressing and not letting teams back in the game.”
Michal Neuvirth, making a bid to be the postseason starter, had
39 saves for the Capitals, including one that hit him in the mask
and left him flat on his back late in the second period. He also
kept his net clean in the shootout, stopping David Desharnais’
attempt and standing his ground as Max Pacioretty missed wide.
Matt Hendricks and Alexander Semin scored in the shootout for
the Capitals, and Mathieu Perreault and Jay Beagle scored
But the main attraction was Backstrom.
The top-line center received a roaring reception when he was the
last player introduced in the starting lineups, and even the singer
of the Canadian and American national anthems wore a Backstrom No.
The 24-year-old forward, who is fifth on the team with 42 points
despite all the games he missed, then took the faceoff that began
Backstrom had been out since Jan. 3, when he was elbowed in a
game against Calgary by Rene Bourque, who now plays with the
Canadiens. Backstrom played nearly 20 minutes Saturday night.
”I’ve got to play the same way that I usually play,” Backstrom
said. ”I can’t be worried about getting hit again, and that’s what
I did from the start and it felt all right, but I can be a little
bit better. My lungs were a little tired there after a while.”
Erik Cole and Tomas Plekanec scored for the Canadiens, who have
lost four straight. Peter Budaj made 31 saves.
The Canadiens are the worst team in the East, and they looked
like it early. They gave the Capitals three power plays in the
first 14 minutes, including one after Budaj was whistled for
playing the puck outside the trapezoid behind the net.
The Capitals didn’t convert any of those man-advantage chances,
but they scored with a pair of easy odd-man rushes. On a
two-on-one, Semin had his shot saved but corralled the rebound and
passed to trailer Perreault for the goal. Beagle made it 2-0 with
his third goal of the season, skating in unmarked to tap in a pass
But Washington again found a way to lose the lead. Montreal cut
it to one in the final minute of the period when Cole poked in a
rebound, and the Canadiens’ assertive play in the second period was
rewarded when Plekanec skated around defenseman Roman Hamrlik to
put a shot over Neuvirth’s glove.
”The guys worked hard tonight and they deserved maybe a better
fate,” Montreal coach Randy Cunneyworth said. ”We certainly
crawled out of the deficit we had and the first goal (by Cole) was
a big one, obviously turning the game around for us and getting us
going in the right direction. … I liked the effort overall.”
Notes: Canadiens C Petteri Nokelainen left the game in the
second period with an upper body injury. … The Capitals placed D
John Erskine on injured reserve with a lower body injury. He hasn’t
played since Feb. 12. … The Capitals have won six straight over
Joseph White can be reached at http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP