- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 16, 2008

NEWARK, N.J. | Great offensive performances from Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin and a few spectacular saves from Jose Theodore were not enough to overcome defensive deficiencies Saturday night for the Washington Capitals.

Zach Parise had the lone tally in a the shootout, and the New Jersey Devils survived a five-point night from Backstrom and a goal with one second left in regulation from Ovechkin for a wild 6-5 victory at Prudential Center.

“We had no business getting a point there, but you take them and you look for positives,” Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. “You say OK to the character of not quitting - there was an awful lot of chances where we could have quit and die. There was a ton of mistakes out there, but we never quit.”

An inability to get the puck out of their defensive end and poor starts to all three periods nearly doomed the Caps to their first regulation loss in seven games. But Backstrom calmly collected the puck out of a furious scramble in front of the net and sent a cross-crease pass to Ovechkin, who buried his second goal of the night and fifth in four games to salvage a point for the Caps with Theodore on the bench for an extra attacker.

“I saw he was at the far post,” Backstrom said. “Instead of shooting because the goalie was there, I went with passing and [Ovechkin] found it this time.”

It was the fourth time Washington rallied from a disadvantage in a back-and-forth contest. Backstrom’s lone goal knotted the score 8:11 into the final period after the Devils had taken a 4-3 lead by scoring on their first shot of the final period - just as they did in the first and second.

The Caps’ problems with turnovers in their own end were prevalent throughout, but New Jersey’s fifth goal was the worst example. The Devils pinned the Caps in the defensive zone for more than a full minute, and one shot rang off the goalpost before Brian Gionta found an open area in a tired defense and redirected a hard pass from defenseman Johnny Oduya past Theodore.

“I think turnovers at our own blue line really cost us,” said defenseman Tom Poti, who logged more than 24 minutes despite playing with bronchitis.

Theodore yielded five goals on 33 shots, but it was tough to blame him for several defensive breakdowns. He made three highlight-reel saves in the first two periods that kept the Devils from turning the contest into a rout.

He made two stops where he dived to his left to turn aside shots, and another where he stretched out his glove as far as he could to snare a one-timer.

“I can’t fault him; I praised him, frankly,” Boudreau said. “In the second period alone, they had so many good chances. I kept looking up [at the scoreboard] and saying, ‘Geez, we’re still in this.’”

Backstrom had a hand in every Washington goal and has 10 points in the past three games. The second-year center has 16 points in 17 games after starting the season with just four in 12 contests.

“I got some lucky bounces, and I play with good players - that is the key, I think,” Backstrom said. “I had a tough start, but I try to do my best out there.”

The Caps played without the NHL’s leading scorer when the night began, right wing Alexander Semin. He missed the game with an upper body injury suffered during the second period of Washington’s 3-1 victory Friday against the Devils at Verizon Center. Semin leads the Caps in goals, points and plus-minus, but he skated for only about five minutes during the pregame warmup before leaving the ice.

Washington was also without defenseman Shaone Morrisonn (groin) and center Sergei Fedorov (ankle) for a fifth consecutive contest.



Click to Read More

Click to Hide