- The Washington Times
Thursday, December 7, 2017

Capitals forwards Tom Wilson and Alex Ovechkin chatted Wednesday in what Wilson called “the bagel room.” It was time, they said, for Nicklas Backstrom’s scoring drought to be over.

Backstrom previously went 21 games without a goal and was nearing his career-high of going 24 games without a goal.


Halfway into the first period, Wilson whipped a pass to Ovechkin, who immediately dumped it off to Backstrom in front of the net. Backstrom scored and with that, the drought ended. Just as planned.

The sequence was another sign the Capitals — winners of 12 of their last 17 games — are starting to figure things out.

In Wednesday’s 6-2 win against the reeling Chicago Blackhawks, all three players on Washington’s top line had goals in the first period and finished with 11 of the team’s 17 points.

“I think our line right now feels very good,” Ovechkin said. “We have lots of minutes. When you have [those] minutes, you just enjoy the time and enjoy to play. Especially when you play against a great team, you have a tough matchup and when you beat them the feeling is unbelievable.”

Wilson scored three minutes after Backstrom, netting a wrist-shot past Blackhawks goalie Anton Forsberg. The goal was part of a career-high four points (two goals, two assists) for Wilson.

Capitals coach Barry Trotz elected to reunite Backstrom and Ovechkin on the same line two weeks ago to help provide a spark to his struggling top six forwards. The move made sense considering the years-long chemistry between the two stars.

But there was a question about the third spot on the line: who would play next to the two on the right wing? Last season, T.J. Oshie enjoyed a career-year when playing next to the two, so it would have been natural for Trotz to just put the entire group back together. Instead, Trotz went with Wilson.

“As much as Ovi and Backy are such great players, and they can do such great things, Tom adds an element [to the line],” Trotz said. “He gets pucks, he keeps plays alive. He makes people move the puck a little quicker. I think it’s energized that line a little bit.

“He’s done a really good job and getting rewarded for it.”

Trotz said Wilson, a former 2012 first-round pick, has added elements to his game every season. At 18, Wilson was called up to the NHL playing in limited minutes on the fourth line, earning the reputation of a brawler, energy guy.

Wilson credited Backstrom and Ovechkin for his recent success.

“Ovi is playing with a lot of energy and Nicky is so easy to play with, so I mean I’ve kind of found that poise with the puck,” Wilson said. “They seem to be open and it’s just about making the play.”

Ovechkin scored his 21st goal of the year in the first. He is on pace for 59 goals, which would be his highest since 2008. The mark is also his second-highest amount of goals through 29 games to start the season.

But Ovechkin also had a career-high three assists, which he also attributed to his line.

“I think we’re feeling it,” Ovechkin said. “Everybody is moving. Everybody knows exactly where we’re going to be, so it’s easy to play and it’s fun to play.”


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