Washington Capitals vs New Jersey Devils: Bäckström Hat Trick and Wilson Penalty
The Capitals defeated the New Jersey Devils 6-3, evening the series between these two clubs. Both teams still face off two more times in March, but both have won their home-ice games this season. After a 6-0 result in Newark back in October, the Capitals were looking to retaliate.
Goal scoring was low during the first two periods but opened up with six goals between the two teams during the third. The Devils were behind 3-4 and pulled Keith Kinkaid from net, hoping to tie it up. However, two empty net goals let the Capitals keep the lead.
Usually, Nicklas Bäckström takes the backseat in goals, but three goals against the Devils made him first star of the night. Two of those were fed from Alex Ovechkin. The two were reunited on the first line following Evgeny Kuznetsov’s injury and haven’t been separated, even with his return. With chemistry like that, it’s hard to think the Capitals will mix up the top line until there’s proof that something isn’t working.
Bäckström has put together the start to a remarkable season. He has 32 points in 25 games played, which leads the Capitals. Just below him is, of course, Alex Ovechkin with 31 points. Bäckström is an elite playmaker and his assist totals reflect just how much support he gives to his teammates. His consistency has him well on the way to a 60+ point season.
Only nine games back from his shortened 20-game suspension, Tom Wilson collided with Devils’ Brett Seney, resulting in a match penalty and ejection from the game. Seney returned to the game a few shifts later after being checked out and going through concussion protocol. It was ruled a hit to the head by the on-ice officials, but footage review showed it was shoulder-on-shoulder contact.
Capitals head coach Todd Reirden spoke to the media following the game, defending his player. “It’s incidental contact, and he is following his defenseman down the wall. The player backs into him, he tries to get out of the way of the player, makes himself as small as possible, and there’s incidental contact.”
Washington was contacted by the Department of Player Safety this morning. There will not be a hearing or supplemental discipline on the play. Washington Post reporter Isabelle Khurshudyan broke down the decision.
— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) December 1, 2018
The Capitals face the Anaheim Ducks at Capital One Arena in a 3 p.m. Sunday matinee. With a win streak to defend, the Capitals should come out and take an early lead to ensure the victory. Whether they can manage that is an entirely different matter. Players have their routines and an odd mid-afternoon start time can throw that off. If the opposing team starts strong, the Caps have a tendency to give up halfway through these matinees.
Like any West Coast team, the Ducks are a wildcard for the Caps. Facing an opponent just two times in a season makes it more difficult to learn and predict the style of play. In 28 games, the Ducks have 13 wins, placing them in second in the division. For a team that has three players sidelined with long-term injuries, they’ve still been holding their own. The Ducks have four wins in their last five games, so the Capitals will need to be sharp.
Follow Jess on Twitter: @jmstarr_
Photo Courtesy of: Tah-heetch.com