As the puck came to rest in the back of the net, Ovechkin added an exclamation point seldom seen this season: a jubilant leap into the end boards that sent the glass rattling under the weight of his enthusiasm.
The Capitals’ brightest stars, Ovechkin, Backstrom and Mike Green — the remaining “Young Guns” — looked like their most potent offensive selves, totaling nine points to help the Capitals inch closer to a playoff berth.
“You mean the good old days?” Backstrom said with a wide smile. “It’s good, we’re working hard out there. . . . We’ve got to come to work every night. It’s do or die for us right now. You’ve got to come to work every night, it’s going to be important.”
Ovechkin recorded his 19th and 20th goals of the season to become the only player to reach the 20-goal plateau in all eight seasons since the 2004-05 lockout and extend his personal scoring streak to nine games. He has 10 goals and five assists in that span.
Backstrom posted his first four-assist night since Nov. 11, 2010, and Green scored two goals in a single contest for the first time since Oct. 22, 2011.
The Capitals (17-17-2) improved to 36 points and the NHL’s version of .500. Washington sits two points back of Southeast Division-leading Winnipeg with two games in hand and trails the New York Islanders by three points for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“It's obviously huge for those guys to just play the way that they did. We need them playing like that from here on out in every game. It's obviously fun to watch. It's something,” fourth-liner Jay Beagle said. “We look to them for leadership and we all fall under them and kind of feed off them and go from there in the games. It was awesome.”
Washington didn’t get off to a strong start against the Hurricanes, who are vying for their own playoff hopes. Jason Chimera accidentally put the puck past goaltender Braden Holtby (31 saves) while trying to settle a bouncing rebound with 11:32 gone in the first period to give Carolina a 1-0 lead. Less than four minutes later Jiri Tlusty, who was credited with the first goal, scored on his own when he shot between Holtby’s legs on the power play to make it 2-0.
But before the period came to a close Backstrom and Ovechkin combined to put Washington on the board. As he entered the offensive zone Backstrom made a sly drop pass to Ovechkin and then set a pick of Carolina’s defensemen, allowing Ovechkin to take a few strides and step into a powerful snap shot. The puck blasted into the upper left hand corner to make it 2-1 with 39 seconds remaining in the first.