It figured to reason that the Capitals could wear down the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks were playing their fifth of a seven games in 13 days road trip, and they rely for the most part on just two lines.
So even an early deficit for the Caps wasn't as bad as it appeared.
Slowly, the Caps' third line of Jason Chimera, Brooks Laich and Joel Ward – with some cameos by others – took on Anaheim's top players and won the battles. Eventually, the Caps tied the score on a Nicklas Backstrom goal with 42 seconds left, and the Swedish center scored again in overtime to complete a 5-4 comeback victory Tuesday at Verizon Center.
That tying goal late in the third was set up by Chimera, Laich and Ward, whom coach Bruce Boudreau chose to put on the ice trailing by one with his net empty.
“I think it's a nice reward for hard work. For whatever reason, things were clicking for our line tonight,” Laich said. “When you're rewarded an opportunity like that, you want to make the most of it.”
Much of the conversation moving forward will center on Boudreau not putting captain Alex Ovechkin on the ice with a chance to tie the score, but the coach went with his “gut” and Backstrom, and did reward the third line for a tough night of aggressive attack.
“They were playing good and other guys, not so much,” Boudreau said of tossing his checking line out there in a six-on-five situation instead of Ovechkin's. “I've got to put out the guys that I think are going to score the goal. And 99 percent of the time, Alex is the guy I think is going to score the goal. I just didn't think he was going to score the goal at that time tonight.”
But the third line's production was more than just an opportunistic goal in the final minute. Laich, Chimera and Ward were responsible for three of the Caps' five goals Tuesday.
Throughout the game, Boudreau took every chance he could to put that trio out against the Ducks' dangerous top line of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan. That line only scored on the power play, and it was tired by the end of the game.
“They get counted on for a lot of minutes, so that was the goal, anyways, as best we could is to slow them down as much as we can,” said Ward, who talked about wanting to own up for a bad game in Vancouver. “If we can kind of keep them off the score sheet, it gives you an opportunity.”
The Caps pounced on the opportunity, getting a fluky goal or two and grinding down an exhausted Anaheim group. It may have looked like they stole two points, but the Caps kept plugging away and got rewarded.
“It was a great comeback win,” Chimera said. “We stuck with it all night and we had some bang-bang goals it seemed like it just kind of went in. It was one of those nights.”
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