By Max Harrelson
TJ Oshie deflected in the deciding goal with 2:04 remaining and the Caps rallied for a 3-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche as Alex Ovechkin remained stuck on 698 career goals.
“I can’t tell you how it went in or where it went in,” said Oshie, whose team ended a two-game slide. “But I’m happy it went in.”
Trailing 2-0 after the first, the Capitals needed a spark.
Nicklas Backstrom’s stern words to the rescue.
The veteran forward delivered a strong message at intermission. It hit home as the Capitals picked up their game, especially on the power play. Backstrom certainly turned his words into action by scoring on the man advantage in the second period. Tom Wilson tied the game by redirecting a shot on the power play with 7:12 remaining.
“When Nick talks, everyone listens,” said goaltender Braden Holtby, who finished with 32 saves. “He doesn’t say much all the time. I think that’s part of why it means so much when he does. When he says something, it’s time to listen. That’s why he’s been our backbone forever. That’s why everyone follows him.”
Philipp Grubauer stopped 35 shots against his former team, including seven from Ovechkin as the 34-year-old tries to become the eighth NHL player to reach the 700-goal mark. Ovechkin has gone three games without a goal since his hat trick on Feb. 4.
Andre Burakovsky and Mikko Rantanen had goals for Colorado, while Nathan MacKinnon added two assists as the team’s five-game win streak was halted.
Colorado pulled Grubauer late in the contest, but couldn’t tie the game.
“Real good team in Washington,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “We didn’t win enough battles. We won some races, but we didn’t win enough battles.”
Backstrom had a power-play goal in the second period for the Capitals in part because of Ovechkin. The Avalanche were concentrating on No. 8 so intently that Backstrom got loose down low to redirect a pass past Grubauer.
A pivotal moment was in the second period when Colorado had a 5-on-3 opportunity for a minute. Holtby kept Colorado at bay to keep a 2-1 game.
“If you can kill off a 5-on-3, somehow the numbers tilt in your favor heavily, even if you’re behind in a game like that,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. “That was a big turning point in the game.”
Burakovsky and Rantanen scored on shots to the glove side of Holtby in the first period to give the Avalanche a 2-0 lead.
MacKinnon assisted on both to reach the 80-point mark for the season. He joined Hall of Famer Joe Sakic (81, 1995-96) as the Avalanche players to reach 80 points within the first 56 games.
Colorado kept constant watch on Ovechkin, shadowing him wherever he went in the offensive zone. Even then, he got his share of good looks.
In the second, his redirect in front of the net hit Grubauer in the glove. Ovechkin had an even better chance in the first after finding himself open in front of the net. His attempt deflected over the top of the net by Grubauer’s stick.
“Everybody tries to shut down Ovi,” MacKinnon told the media after morning skate. “No one does.”
Grubauer was just hoping Ovechkin didn’t reach the momentous milestone while he was in goal.
“I don’t want to be part of that (history),” Grubauer said before the game. “It would be nice to watch it on TV instead of being on the ice.”