The Nail: Devils Beat Caps 2-1

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Photo: Bruce Bennett

Tuesday’s Caps game was ugly. The days that followed didn’t get much better. Adam Oates kinda sorta maybe called out Alex Ovechkin on Wednesday for being Alex Ovechkin. The national hockey media devoured it like it was some delicious Chipotle guac. Ovi wasn’t made available to reporters on Thursday to respond.

With six games left, everyone started to realize it would take divine intervention for the Capitals to make the playoffs. If they did make it, they didn’t deserve to be there — and the Capitals knew that.

The scoring got started tonight with an even-strength Alex Ovechkin tally, the first since we still cared about the Winter Olympics. Playing on a line with Mikhail Grabovski and Nicklas Backstrom, Ovi took a feed from Grabo in the near circle before flipping the puck past Cory Schneider.

During a second period in which the Devs dominated play, New Jersey tied the game up. Twelve minutes into the frame, Tuomo Ruutu tipped home a shot from D-man Eric Gelinas to make it one-one.

The Caps headed into the third with a man-advantage, needing their power play to once again save them from disaster. It didn’t happen.

Ryan Carter scored a late goal for New Jersey. Devils beat Caps 2-1.

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backstrom-high-five

There’s a saying I hate: What have you done for me lately? It’s ignorant, brushing off a person’s full contributions. But that’s the attitude among a lot of lippy sports fans, especially on Twitter.

I bring this up because after Nicklas Backstrom missed on his shootout attempt at the end of Sunday’s game, some people got frustrated. I get it– to a point.

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Backstrom and Ovechkin at practice. (Photo: Carolyn Kaster

The sacrificial bloodletting that was the Capitals’ shootout loss to the Kings threatened to cost Washington their most important center in Nick Backstrom and a veteran defenseman in Jack Hillen.

Based on Thursday’s practice, there’s some good news: Nick Backstrom seems to be unscathed.

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backstrom-leaves-ice

Everything was going swimmingly for the Washington Capitals. Alex Ovechkin opened up scoring with two straight goals. Going into intermission, the Caps had a two-goal lead.

Then things changed. Mike Richards scored early in the second. Then, a few minutes later, the Capitals’ first-line center and arguably the team’s best player, Nicklas Backstrom, absorbed a rough hip check near the Caps bench, where the boards meet plexiglass, courtesy of Drew Doughty.

Take a look.

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Photo: Paul Frederiksen

Brouwer celebrates his first goal (Photo: Paul Frederiksen)

Brouwer celebrates his first goal (Photo: Paul Frederiksen)

Coming soon to warmups near you: Ian Oland in spandex. With an empty-net goal against Toronto Sunday, Troy Brouwer netted his 20th goal of the season. Ian had a bet with the Brouwer Rangers that if Troy scored 20 this year, he would go to a game with Nathan and Ryan dressed in a red unitard. Time to buy a fanny pack.

“I’m excited!” Brouwer told me of Ian’s future gear.

Brouwer’s goal was made possible by a kind turn from Nicklas Backstrom. After Brouwer banked the puck off the boards from the defensive zone, Nicky followed the puck towards the net. The Swedish center neglected to touch the puck, allowing Brouwer to hit the milestone.

“That’s the most unselfish thing I’ve ever seen in hockey,” Brouwer said.

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Nicklas Backstrom to IOC: FedEx Me My Silver Medal

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When the International Olympic Committee banned Nicklas Backstrom from the Sochi gold medal game last month, it seemed doubtful the Swede would receive the sliver medal awarded to the rest of his teammates.

Following an appeal, however, the IOC has relented under pressure. Announcing the news Friday afternoon, they ruled that Backstrom had no intention of taking Zyrtec D as a performance enhancer and decided to award him a silver medal after all.

Following the Capitals’ 4-3 win over the Canucks, Backstrom spoke about the decision for the first time.

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backstrom-videobomb

Before the Capitals had another one of those games against the Flyers on Wednesday night, Mike Vogel interviewed Brooks Laich following the morning skate. With the trade deadline fast approaching, things were very tense. Very serious. And then Nicklas Backstrom made a cameo.

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almost-goal

Masochists: this one is for you. In the first period, Nicklas Backstrom thought he scored what looked to be goal number 13 on the year. Brooks Laich raised his arms in the air to celebrate.

But apparently that raincloud is still following Nicky around.

The official waved no goal, and play continued. The play was reviewed at the next whistle.

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Photo: Robert Mayer

This has been the worst week of Nicklas Backstrom‘s professional career. After being one of Sweden’s best players in the Sochi Olympics, Backstrom was suspended from the gold-medal game due to a high level of pseudoephedrine in his urine. Sweden lost 3-0. Backstrom flew home without a medal to face the media during a press conference that got kind of uncomfortable at times.

Here’s a good way to put that mess in the past: score a goal in your first game back.

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backstrom-as-kid

You’re in for a treat. During the Olympic break, Swedish television’s Viasat ran a feature on Washington Capitals center (and gold-medal-game pariahNicklas Backstrom. Reporter Frida Nordstrand visited Backstrom’s hometown of Valbo to explore the roots of Washington’s quietest superstar. Nordstrand pored through old photos, talked to Nicky’s family and friends, and revealed more of Backstrom’s personality than we’ve ever seen before.

In the 13-minute clip we learn that Nick used to sleep in his skates, how he came about that trademark humility, and what it’s like to follow in his father’s footsteps.

Also, his hometown named a rink after him. It’s called Nickback. Yeah. Nickback.

Translated by F.O.T.B. Magnus Cadelin, we’ve got the video and full transcript below.

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