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Capitals rally past Senators behind Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom

What to know from Washington’s 3-2 win over Ottawa

Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin scores one of his two third-period goals Saturday in a 3-2 win over Ottawa at Capital One Arena. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
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The entire sequence unfolded in about four seconds, yet Nicklas Backstrom’s hesitation seemed to make the overtime play unfold in slow motion. The veteran center swiped the puck from Ottawa’s Josh Norris in front of the Senators’ goal, skated to netminder Matt Murray’s left and waited for Murray to commit. Once he did, Backstrom sent a backhand flip just under the crossbar, sealing Washington’s 3-2 come-from-behind win.

Capital One Arena erupted even before the goal lamp flashed red.

“The puck was bouncing a little bit, so I was just trying to make it flat, and then I got too close to shoot,” Backstrom said. “So, yeah, you got to trust a good old backhand sometimes.”

Backstrom’s goal 1:13 into the extra period came after Alex Ovechkin scored twice in the third period as Washington rallied from a 2-0 deficit after the first 40 minutes.

After starting the season winless in their first seven overtime games, the Capitals have won two straight in the three-on-three sessions, and their captain was the reason they got there Saturday night.

“We just try to be patient,” Ovechkin said. “Obviously, it is not fun to play two periods without a goal and into the third period 2-0. It is not fun. You have to grind it out, you have to work had and make a push, and that is what we did. I thought we found a way and we take it.”

Ovechkin scored his 28th and 29th goals in an eight-minute span to start the third period, tying him for the league lead with the New York Rangers’ Chris Kreider, who had a hat trick Saturday night. Ovechkin has five goals in his past five games.

Ovechkin’s first goal came just 92 seconds into the final period, off a rebound in the slot. His second, at 9:43 of the third, also came from the slot following a pass from Backstrom on the boards behind the net.

Washington (23-10-9) was held without a shot on goal for the first 17:32 of the game and finished the first period with only five shots at Murray, with most coming on a late power play.

“Offensively, I thought we got better as the game went on, but they were ready to play in the first,” Capitals Coach Peter Laviolette said. “It was tight out there both ways, so it was fast, too. It was really fast. Not a lot of whistles. It went back and forth real quick.”

Ottawa (11-20-3) scored on its first shot — Thomas Chabot’s blast from the point just 1:22 into the contest. Ottawa doubled its lead with 13:53 left in the second period when Zach Sanford, a former Capital, scored from the slot.

The Capitals started to get more chances to open the middle frame, but Murray had the answers.

Vitek Vanecek made his third straight start in net after Capitals Coach Peter Laviolette acknowledged this was a stretch of games for Vanecek to grab the reins as the team’s top goaltender. Ilya Samsonov’s last game was a 4-2 loss to Vancouver on Jan. 16.

Here’s what to know about the Capitals’ win over the Senators:

Depleted defense

John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov and Nick Jensen were out of the lineup against Ottawa. Carlson is still in the coronavirus protocols. Orlov was serving the second game of his two-game suspension for kneeing Winnipeg’s Nikolaj Ehlers, who was placed on long-term injured reserve Saturday.

Jensen suffered an upper-body injury in Thursday’s game in Boston. Jensen was on the ice before Capitals’ morning skate Saturday but left before official practice was underway. Laviolette said Saturday morning the team was still evaluating Jensen.

Hathaway’s role

Garnet Hathaway stayed on the top line next to Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Hathaway, who has seven goals and seven assists, has been enjoying a strong offensive campaign but to this point had never been a top-six winger in Washington.

Laviolette said Saturday that Hathaway’s move to the top line was first based out of necessity when the group needed a right winger. His play — and the team’s lack of options — has kept Hathaway on the first line.

He was moved around the lineup Saturday as the Capitals started tinkering with combinations to spark a comeback. For several shifts, Hathaway was back with his original fourth-line teammates Carl Hagelin and Nic Dowd.

In a corresponding move during the second period, Laviolette went with a three-line rotation and tried Lars Eller as a right winger with Kuznetsov and Ovechkin. Eller typically plays center.

Shots on goal

Washington’s offense has struggled most of January, and the team has emphasized getting to the net more to create more chances. The Capitals were slow out of the gate Saturday, but they managed to put 16 shots on goal in the second period after they had just five in the first 20 minutes.

In the third, Ovechkin’s presence in front allowed him to be in the ideal position to put in the rebound on Trevor van Riemsdyk’s shot that hit the right post.

The Capitals had a season-low 17 shots on goal Thursday in the loss to Boston.