In their 900th game together, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom delivered combining for six points in a 6-3 dominant win for the Capitals over the New Jersey Devils.
Observations from the win
Backstrom's big night
How fitting was it when the Caps' first goal was an Ovechkin snipe off a Backstrom assist? While Ovechkin is frequently the headliner for this team, on Friday it was Backstrom who dominated with another two goals and an assist in addition to his early helper for Ovechkin. That fourth point was the 900th of his career so yes, he recorded his 900th point in his 900th game with Ovechkin. That's pretty cool.
What the Caps did differently
This game did not start well for Washington. Jonas Siegenthaler took a penalty less than three minutes into the game and Kyle Palmieri scored to make it 1-0. Mackenzie Blackwood then stepped up and made a number of key saves early in the first period. Feel familiar? A bad start against a bad team felt an awful lot like Monday's loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Despite how the game felt, however, it was clear in that first period that this was very different from the Columbus loss. In that game, the Blue Jackets' forecheck dominated initially to give them an early lead, then the defense suffocated Washington, keeping the Caps to the perimeter. On Friday, the Caps were in control of that first period despite the early deficit. Washington held New Jersey to six shots in those first 20 minutes, they were getting good opportunities and taking advantage of defensive breakdowns from New Jersey.
Columbus has more talent and ran its gameplan to perfection against the Caps. New Jersey got an early goal, but otherwise played a bad game against a far superior Washington team.
Orlov led in ice time
If you guessed John Carlson would be the ice-time leader in this game, well, you'd be wrong. Orlov skated a team-high 21:31. With the game well in hand, Todd Reirden spread out the minutes which should be beneficial as the team has the quick turnaround against Tampa Bay on Saturday.
Sports can often be cruel, but sometimes it can also be poetic in the way things work out. No, I'm not talking about Backstrom's night, though that would certainly qualify, I am talking about the two goals Washington scored during a 4-on-4 when the referees inexplicably awarded matching minors to Garnet Hathaway and Miles Wood.
In the second period, Wayne Simmonds knocked down Hathaway in a board battle and landed on top of him. Hathaway landed on top of Miles Wood who took exception. Then he and Hathaway began engaging with each other while Simmonds just parked himself on top of Hathaway pinning him to the ice.
You would think the Caps would get a power play from this exchange, but instead matching minors were issued.
This resulted in matching minors. pic.twitter.com/2MhLcuS9vP
— JJ Regan (@JJReganNBCS) December 21, 2019
The other angle of the video shows that Hathaway and Wood were definitely both going after each other. You want to give Hathaway a penalty, fine, but Simmonds very clearly parked himself on top of Hathaway. This is ridiculous. You have to give New Jersey two penalties there.
That just felt like the referee had made up his mind as to what he was calling initially and just wasn't paying attention. Being a referee is harder than saying, hey, there's a scrum! Uh...matching minors!
There are two players literally on top of Hathaway. Horrible call.
The only positive from the matching minors to Hathaway and Wood is that Washington capitalized. The Devils' defense struggled to keep up with the Caps all game long and when it became a straight man-on-man, 4-on-4 game, Washington torched New Jersey.
When Hathaway and Wood entered the penalty box, the score was tied at 2. When they got out, Washington was up 4-2 thanks to goals from Backstrom and John Carlson and the game felt like it was over.
Sweet justice... Backstrom scores his 2nd of the night on the 4v4 🔥 pic.twitter.com/cMoU10JM86
— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) December 21, 2019
Play of the game
How do you celebrate the 900th game for Ovechkin and Backstrom? By Backstrom setting up Ovechkin for a goal of course.
the dynamic duo doing what they do best pic.twitter.com/SOgiXASahR
— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) December 21, 2019
Stat of the game
Backstrom is the second player in franchise history to reach 900 points which, again, he did in his 900th game with Ovechkin.
— NHLPA (@NHLPA) December 21, 2019
Quote of the game
Backstrom on getting his 900th point during his 900th game together with Ovechkin:
"I wasn't expecting that but sometimes it happens. It is fun being apart of this organization for this long and I mean, playing with such a great player like Alex, it's fortunate on my side."
— Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) December 21, 2019
Hopefully NJ is not rejuvenated by Taylor Hall leaving
— Scott Andrews (@SCAndrews1970) December 20, 2019
Nick is scoring twice
— Happy Hagelindays 🎄 (@vranapuckme) December 20, 2019
Ovi and Backstrom combine for 4 points on their milestone night together https://t.co/fyvxOkxiXD
— Alex (@indigo_alex) December 20, 2019
Backstrom got four points by himself. Ovechkin added another two.
Ovechkin and Backström reenact the Dirty Dancing scene on ice for their 900th game. pic.twitter.com/FZWwzNnODe
— Baby Dyl (@Dontdostupid) December 20, 2019
I mean, pretty much.
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MORE CAPITALS NEWS:
What a night: Dynamic duo exceeds the hype
900 Games: Backstrom and Ovechkin approaching milestone
Reduced: Ice time for third line