WASHINGTON — During the second intermission on Saturday night, Capitals rookie Zach Sanford told himself to “shoot a little more.”
He’ll have to remember that next time he’s in Washington.
Sanford scored the game-winning goal for the Capitals in a 6-4 win over the Anaheim Ducks, then was re-assigned to Hershey of the AHL.
“That was a pretty cool first one to get,” said Sanford, who helped Washington to a sixth straight victory and 12th consecutive home win. “There were a couple chances I passed up. And I got one, got the shot off and it went in.”
Sanford played his first NHL game since mid-December, and Washington announced after the game that the 22-year-old had been re-assigned to Hershey after being recalled from the Bears on Wednesday. The Capitals have their bye week coming up and don’t play again until next Saturday.
By finishing off Brett Connolly’s cross-ice pass, he became the latest beneficiary of a deep Washington offense that has now tied an NHL record by scoring five goals or more in 11 consecutive home games.
“He may go back and forth a few more times,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said of Sanford’s future. “I do know this: Every time he comes up, he looks more and more comfortable.”
Nicklas Backstrom added a goal and two assists for Washington to reach 60 points on the season after beginning the day three points shy of the league lead.
T.J. Oshie, Daniel Winnik and Marcus Johansson had a goal and an assist each. Braden Holtby made 18 saves to win his 14th consecutive start for Washington despite giving up two goals in the second and two more in the third.
“It was probably good for us to be in a game that we felt uncomfortable for a while,” Trotz said. “This one was starting to slide the wrong way. They had a little doubt there for a bit. They were coming back and they were getting momentum and they kept coming. But at the same time, I thought we were really resilient, and that says a lot about our group.”
Ryan Getzlaf had a goal and two assists for the Ducks. John Gibson made 33 saves for Anaheim, which fell to 1-3-1 with one game left on a six-game road trip.
“He gave up four or five goals, but that was one of his best games of the year,” Getzlaf said of Gibson. “And the goals that were in, they’re backdoor plays that we’ve got to have for him.”
Sanford put the Capitals ahead for good with 2:39 left after Connolly reached Matt Niskanen’s puck off the boards on the left and sent a pass toward the right faceoff circle.
Sanford reached it and unleashed a shot that caromed off Gibson’s blocker arm before trickling over the goal line.
“That was like slow motion for me,” Sanford said. “Like, ‘Come on, get going, get going.’”
Johansson added an empty-net goal with 13 seconds left.
Down 3-0 and then 4-1, Anaheim closed within two before the second intermission behind goals by Jakob Silfverberg and Hampus Lindholm, then tied it with two goals midway through the third, both set up by passes from defenseman Cam Fowler.
On the first, Fowler found Ryan Kesler between the faceoff circles for a shot that beat Holtby to his glove side. Then, following a faceoff in the Ducks’ end, his outlet feed created a breakaway for Getzlaf, who rounded Holtby and tied it with 8:12 to play.
“It showed a lot of character, hanging in there and playing with a team like that and making that comeback,” Getzlaf said. “That’s not an easy team to do that against, and not an easy building to be in.”
NOTES: Backstrom hit 700 career points with his first assist. His goal was the 182nd of his career, pushing him ahead of Dale Hunter and Michal Pivonka into sole possession of 10th place on the Capitals’ career list. … Lindholm’s goal stood after a Capitals challenge for offsides was inconclusive. … Anaheim D Sami Vatanen missed his fourth game with a lower-body injury. … Washington had gone 11 games without conceding more than three goals since an 8-7 overtime loss at Pittsburgh on Jan. 16.
Ducks: Conclude their road trip at Minnesota on Tuesday.
Capitals: Return from their bye week in Detroit next Saturday to begin a three-game road trip.
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