T.J. Oshie credits Nick Backstrom’s ‘hockey smarts’ for go-ahead goal

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Oshie credits Backstrom’s ‘hockey smarts’ for go-ahead goal originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Nicklas Backstrom entered the Capitals’ Stanley Cup playoff opener against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday coming off a regular season in which he had racked up just six goals and 25 assists.

Those were the lowest totals of his career, a product of the 34-year-old center missing the start of the year recovering from a painful hip and doing some load management down the stretch.

However, the Capitals still lean on Backstrom as much as ever when he’s on the ice. That remained the case Tuesday, when Backstrom set up T.J. Oshie for a go-ahead goal late in the third period that gave Washington a lead it would never relinquish.

“His hockey smarts, hockey sense, ability to read the ice, see the play, is better than anyone I’ve personally ever played with,” Oshie said after the game. “That hasn’t gone anywhere. He’s a fun guy to play with if you know how to get open and…think somewhat like he does, where he wants you to be.

“That was an instance where maybe some guys would just see it’s a 2-on-1, grab it and throw it right away. He waited for me to get into position right in front of the net so I could just redirect it. I’ve kind of made a living off passes from him like that so just another one for the ... bank?”

Laughter greeted Oshie's pause. He's been on the receiving end of so many Backstrom passes he could be forgiven for struggling to come up with a place to keep them all.

Backstrom initially received the puck with Oshie pushing up the ice in line with a Panthers defenseman. Rather than pass it right away, he took an extra second to allow Oshie to get into position and made a pass that very few players in the NHL can make.

The Capitals’ all-time assists leader fired the puck between the legs of defenseman MacKenzie Weegar and Oshie completed the layup to propel their squad to a 1-0 series lead.

“Typical Nicky fashion, sauced it through a guy’s legs and right on my tape,” Oshie said. “I just redirected and didn’t see it go in so he had to come tell me that we scored. But it’s always nice to get that go-ahead goal in the third period and that’s a great play by Nick.”

All first-round games of Capitals vs. Panthers will be available regionally on NBC Sports Washington and streamed live on the MyTeams app.