WASHINGTON -- Nicklas Backstrom absorbed the largest amount of criticism when the season went south for the Washington Capitals during the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but right now he looks a lot more like the guy who reached 100 points two seasons ago.
Backstrom scored to get Washington into overtime in the final minute of regulation, and then secured the second point as well for the Capitals in a wild 5-4 comeback victory Tuesday night against the Anaheim Ducks at Verizon Center.
"We just stayed close enough," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I thought when [Anaheim] got the fourth goal that might be [it], but it says a lot of the resiliency of this team. I think the third goal we got, which might have been a little bit on the lucky side, sort of buoyed the guys up and they got reinvigorated. After that they thought they were going to tie it. They believed they were going to tie it."
The win snapped a two-game slide for the Capitals, and extended the Ducks' skid to three. Anaheim scored the first three goals in this contest, but Washington controlled the second half of it and completed the comeback.
It was the third game in four nights for the Ducks, and there were a couple of bad bounces, but this loss clearly irked a team in the midst of a 13-day road trip.
"How we could give up the opportunity to [get] the extra point," Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said. "We had played so well earlier in the game and then we started to self-destruct. They're an offensive team that pounced on their chances, put pressure on us and we didn't react very well."
Added Corey Perry: "It was tough to swallow."
Backstrom tied the contest at four with 42 seconds left in regulation. Anaheim goaltender Jonas Hiller stopped one great chance from Backstrom, but not a second about 10 seconds later.
In a surprising twist, the Capitals had six skaters on the ice with goalie Tomas Vokoun on the bench -- and captain Alex Ovechkin wasn't one of them.
"I got to put out the guys that I think are going to score the goal," Boudreau said. "Ninety-nine percent of the time, Alex is the guy I think is going to score the goal. I just didn't think he was going to score the goal at that time tonight."
Washington's No. 1 center added his second tally of the night and fourth of the season 2:42 into the extra session. Backstrom carried the puck into the zone and then flattened Andrew Cogliano after leaving the puck for Ovechkin.
Eventually the puck ended up with Jeff Schultz near the left point, and his slow roller deflected off Ovechkin's skate and bounced to Backstrom near the right post.
Backstrom did not score a goal in Washington's nine postseason games last year and had only two assists. That was after a season where he had 18 goals and a career-low 65 points. Through 10 games this season he leads Washington with 14 points and is tied for the team lead with four goals.
"He didn't have the greatest season, but he didn't lose his ability to play hockey," Boudreau said. "He's back to where he was. I think he's always been a great player."
Added goaltender Tomas Vokoun: "He's such a patient player, such a skilled guy. Most of the people have a panic point, and his is just a little bit farther than everybody else. It just makes him so smooth. It is not just tonight. It is great to watch him play."
The comeback nullified a four-point performance from Teemu Selanne, who continues to move up in the NHL record book in the twilight of a transcendent career. With two goals and two assists in the game, Selanne moved into 13th place on the League's all-time list in goals scored with 642 and into a tie for 24th in points with 1,354.
He and Saku Koivu dominated in the first 30 minutes, with the help of new linemate Cogliano, but the Ducks did not have enough to hold off the surging Capitals.
"He's done his part, and he continues to do so," Carlyle said. "Other people have got to step up."
Koivu gave Anaheim the lead at 9:05 of the opening period. Washington defenseman Dennis Wideman left the puck behind his net for partner Roman Hamrlik, but he was protecting the front of the cage. Selanne collected the puck and fed it to Koivu in front, who skated to his left and waited out Vokoun before lifting a shot into the net.
It was Koivu's first goal of the season, and only the seventh for the Ducks in 12 games that wasn't scored by either Selanne or the three guys on the top line -- Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan.
Koivu returned the favor at 13:39 of the opening period. After a shot from the left point by fellow Finn Toni Lydman missed wide, Koivu wheeled at the goal line to the right of the Washington net and snapped the puck towards the far post -- and right onto Selanne's stick for an easy tap-in.
Selanne struck again at 8:59 of the second period to push Anaheim's lead to three. He slipped into an open area of the Capitals' defense and Cam Fowler found him for a one-timer. It was Selanne's fifth tally of the season.
The Capitals roared back into the contest late in the second. Washington didn't score on the power play that came from Perry tripping Mathieu Perreault, but 42 seconds after he came out of the box Joel Ward made it a 3-1 game. He beat Hiller along the ice with a shot from near the bottom of the right faceoff circle at 13:23.
Hiller had no one to blame but himself for the second Washington goal at 16:33. He let the puck go past him and off the end boards, but it didn't come back to him quickly enough and he would have committed a penalty had he touched it below the goal line and outside the trapezoid.
That led to Brooks Laich's shot with Hiller out of position. Sheldon Brookbank made a great sprawling save, but Laich collected it and sent a cross-ice pass to Wideman for a one-timer that beat Hiller before he could set again.
Vokoun deserved credit on the sequence because not only did he come out of his net to thwart a developing breakaway, but when he won the race to the loose puck he was the one who fired it to the other end at Hiller to start the whole sequence.
Perry may have inadvertently helped start the Washington rally, but he restored Anaheim's two-goal lead at 9:13 of the third period. After a flurry in front of the Washington net, Perry batted the puck into the net on his backhand out of the air while on one knee for his fifth tally of the season.
Troy Brouwer got that one back a little more than two minutes later. His shot from near the blue line handcuffed Hiller, and when the puck popped up in the air, he couldn't find it. It bounced behind him and across the line for Brouwer's second of the season at 11:42 of the third.
While it would be tough to fault Hiller on either of Backstrom's tallies, the first three allowed were either suspect, a bad bounce or a combination of the two.
"He is paid to stop the puck," Carlyle said. "Simple as that."