The Washington Times - November 2, 2011, 10:32AM

Nicklas Backstrom may have gotten his groove back. The Capitals center scored the tying and winning goals Tuesday night to rescue one point, and then the other against the Anaheim Ducks.

“I think overall, it’s a little shocking that we won, I think,” he said. “We’re happy with two points.”


Backstrom is now ranked fifth in the league with 14 points and fourth with 10 assists. The 23-year-old Swede may have gotten his groove back.

But according to his coach, he never lost it, despite a down season and disappointing playoffs.

“He didn’t have the greatest season, but he didn’t lose his ability to play hockey,” Bruce Boudreau said. “I think he’s back to where he was. I think he’s always been a great player. … His numbers were way down. But he still led the team in ice time and played a ton of minutes for us. We relied on him heavily.”

And the Caps will continue to rely on Backstrom heavily. He’s the top center and was the extra attacker Boudreau used Tuesday along with his checking line to generate a tying goal in the final minute. Jason Chimera’s strong shot bounced off Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller and to Backstrom with his own net empty.

Backstrom saw plenty of twine in front of him, too.

“I was just trying to find an open spot there on the left side. Chimmer shot a nice shot there and I just put it in. It was kind of like open net,” he said with a chuckle “Obviously a big win for us.”

Boudreau explained using Chimera, Brooks Laich and Joel Ward instead of Alex Ovechkin’s line because “they were playing good.” He went with his gut not to put his top player on the ice, but Backstrom did earn a spot.

“I thought he was going to do something,” said Boudreau, who constantly notes that he doesn’t own a crystal ball.

Naturally, he didn’t see Backstrom scoring the overtime winner, either. But it was a pass from Jeff Schultz deflected off Ovechkin’s skate to Backstrom that wound up in the net to complete one of the more entertaining and wacky comebacks at Verizon Center in recent memory.

“It was a weird game,” Backstrom admitted.

But Backstrom coming up big was no surprise to his coach or teammates, who would love their top-line center to shoot more. Asked if that was going to happen, Boudreau shook his head and mouthed the word, “No.”

“I don’t think Nicky’s going to change his game. But when he gets those opportunities, the one thing we can keep reminding him of how good a shot he has. When he gets his shot away, it’s really good,” Boudreau said. “He’s got a good shot; we hope he uses it more.”

Goaltender Tomas Vokoun (11 saves on 15 shots vs. Ducks) sees that shot in practice and knows how special of a player Backstrom is.

“Nicky’s such a patient player and such a skilled guy. Most of the people have a panic point. His is a little bit farther than everybody else’s,” Vokoun said. “It just makes him so smooth. What can I say? Its not just tonight. It’s a privilege to watch him play.”