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Capitals knock off Ottawa Senators at Verizon Center

Nicklas Backstrom scores twice in the third period in 5-2 win.

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By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 8, 2010

Nicklas Backstrom provided more proof Thursday that he possesses the potential to be much more than just a sublime setup man.

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The 22-year-old center scored twice in the third period on shaky Ottawa Senators goaltender Pascal Leclaire, including the game-winner on a nifty wraparound, and the Washington Capitals pulled away for a 5-2 victory at Verizon Center.

"He showed a lot of leadership because I thought we were floundering a little bit in the second period when it was 2-1," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Then he comes out in the third period and gets two goals. He was just determined. That's what's making him one of the best."

Backstrom got plenty of help from a number of players in need of slump-busting performances, including Alex Ovechkin, who ended a two-game pointless streak by scoring his first goal as captain and notched two assists; Boyd Gordon, who tallied his first goal in more than a year; and José Theodore, who made 26 saves to record his first win since Dec. 15.

"I thought José played good. If he had any luck today, he would have had a shutout," Boudreau said. "There was nothing he could do on the first one and we went brain-dead in the last 30 seconds and left [Jonathan] Cheechoo right out in front of the net. I thought he was really solid. You can tell he's solid when he's controlling his rebounds, and he was controlling them tonight. I'm really happy for him. I hope it gets his confidence going."

Theodore said: "It was a tough last couple of weeks. It was up to me to show that I was prepared. There's a lot of hockey left, and it's time for me to get on a roll here."

Although the win was Washington's second straight and seventh in a row at home over the Senators, Boudreau wasn't pleased with everything.

"Our [penalty kill] was really good and our [power play] was really bad," Boudreau said. "We could have had two goals on the PP and still wouldn't have thought it was very good. We didn't outwork them. When you've got a five-on-four, that means you've got the extra guy. Everyone was looking for the puck and [expecting] someone else to go get it."

The power play mustered six shots on three fruitless opportunities. Overall, the unit is 6 for 33 in the past nine games (18.1 percent).

Thanks to Backstrom, though, the Capitals' failure to score on a power play late in the second period didn't matter much in the final analysis.

Only 26 seconds into the third period, Backstrom beat Leclaire from an impossibly tight angle -- almost parallel with the goal line -- to put the Capitals ahead 3-1.

"I made a mistake on the third goal," said Leclaire, who was pulled from his previous start.


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