By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Washington Capitals rookie Nicklas Backstrom accepted full responsibility yesterday for his gaffe late in Sunday's loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, saying he simply lost his bearings on the ice.
"I feel sorry for my teammates," Backstrom said, making in his first public comments about accidentally scoring into his own net. "I'm surprised by myself. I don't know how it could happen. [But] it happened."
Backstrom said he was attempting to steer Sidney Crosby's cross-crease pass into the corner. But the 20-year-old Calder Trophy candidate lost track of his position in relation to the net during a scramble in front, he said, and wound up firing the puck between goaltender Cristobal Huet and the post, putting the Penguins ahead 3-2 with 28 seconds remaining.
The goal all but clinched the Capitals' second agonizing defeat in as many days, and made the possibility of them sneaking into the playoffs that much more difficult.
"I thought I was further in corner and I was just trying to put it behind the net," Backstrom added. "It happened and I can't do anything about now. I just have to go on and play the next game. . . . It's not the best situation when I did it, so it's hard. But you have to go on. I'm just 20 years old. I feel sorry for my team. That's all I can say."
Several of Capitals, including Alex Ovechkin, said they reached out to Backstrom on Sunday night and Monday to comfort and support their teammate. After yesterday's practice, majority owner Ted Leonsis sought out Backstrom and embraced him outside of the locker room at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.
"I'm sure he feels terrible, but the kid is going to win a hundred games for me in his career," Leonsis said.
Brooks Laich cracked: "I told him before the Pittsburgh game that we're both going to score a goal. I just [joked] with him today that I forgot to say what net to score it on."
After Backstrom spoke to reporters, the subject matter quickly turned to the matter at hand: the players' frame of mind as the team attempts to accomplish the improbable, beginning tonight when Jarome Iginla (41 goals) and the Calgary Flames visit Washington.
The Capitals are seven points behind Carolina for the Southeast Division lead and seven points behind Philadelphia for the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference. Even if the Capitals go 12-0, including beating the Hurricanes twice, they'll still need help to get in.
"No one expects us to do anything," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I told them, 'Just play the way you're playing.' This is a great learning experience. The only people expect something from us, is us, quite frankly."All Eyes on Alex
Comcast SportsNet will give viewers a unique perspective of the action tonight when the cable network dedicates a camera to following Ovechkin, the league's leading scorer with 54 goals and 95 points.
The 22-year-old's every move on the ice and bench will be captured and broadcast on CSN Plus, which will feature a split screen so viewers can watch the "OvechKam" and the regular game broadcast simultaneously.
Ovechkin said he's excited, but his enthusiasm was not shared by everyone.
"It's all for the fans; I'll be honest, I don't like it," Leonsis said. "I think hockey is the most team-oriented sport. Alex wants team achievements, not individual achievements. But this is the entertainment industry, an entertainment business, and I think fans just love every moment he's on the ice. Now he just has to realize he's always on camera. I don't want this to become 'The Truman Show.' "
Ovechkin, meantime, joked he might shave his scraggly beard for the camera.
"It will be good," Ovechkin said. "It will be fun to watch after the game what I do." . . .
Center David Steckel underwent surgery to have a pair of pins inserted into his broken right index finger last week and is expected to miss about a month. Right wing Chris Clark (groin tendon) did not practice yesterday, all but ruling him out for tonight's game. . . .
Huet debuted a new mask that features a bald eagle, the Capitol dome and both of the Capitals' logos. . . .
Olie Kolzig, with 299 career victories, is expected to start in goal against the Flames.