WASHINGTON – The Washington Capitals had pulled their goaltender and were pressing for the tying goal in the frantic final minute of regulation against the Anaheim Ducks.
It was a perfect opportunity for two-time NHL MVP Alex Ovechkin to work his magic.
Except for the fact that he was on the bench.
Nicklas Backstrom scored the tying goal with 42 seconds left in regulation, then added the game-winner at 2:18 of overtime to lift the Capitals to a 5-4 victory Tuesday night.
Washington trailed 3-0 in the second period and 4-2 with 10:47 left in regulation before rallying. It was 4-3 when coach Bruce Boudreau pulled goaltender Tomas Vokoun, and Backstrom hammered home the rebound of a shot by Jason Chimera to force the extra session.
But where was Ovechkin?
“I thought other guys were better than him and there was just a chance other guys might score the goal,” Boudreau said. “Ninety-nine per cent 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. You go with your gut feeling. I got lucky.”
Ovechkin got his chance in overtime. With Backstrom standing to the right of the net, Ovechkin sent the puck toward goalie Jonas Hiller. Anaheim defenceman Toni Lydman let the puck slip under his stick, and Backstrom scored easily to end it.
Washington improved to 6-0 at home and ended a two-game skid.
“We just stayed close enough,” Boudreau said. “I thought when they got the fourth goal it might be something, but it says a lot about the resiliency of the team.”
Teemu Selanne had two goals and two assists for the Ducks, who have lost three straight. Hiller stopped 35 shots.
“We played so well earlier in the game, then we started to self-destruct,” coach Randy Carlyle said. “They’re an offensive team that pounced on their chances, put pressure on us and we didn’t react very well.”
Now in his 20th season, the 41-year-old Selanne leads the Ducks in goals (five) and assists (nine). He has three goals and eight assists in his last six games.
“He’s done his part and continues to,” Carlyle said. “Other people have got to step up.”
Anaheim was averaging two goals per game and had been held to one goal or fewer in five of its first 11 contests. The Ducks took only 15 shots, but more than a quarter of them made it past Vokoun.
“I thought he played well,” Capitals defenceman Dennis Wideman said of Vokoun. “We didn’t give up a whole lot of shots, but the shots that we gave up were quality scoring chances.”
Wideman, Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer scored for the Capitals, who remained unbeaten in the United States following losses at Edmonton and Vancouver.
The Ducks went up 1-0 at 9:05 of the first period when Selanne skated behind the goal and sent a centring pass to Saku Koivu, who eluded defenceman Roman Hamrlik and beat Vokoun from the left side.
Selanne and Koivu teamed again 4 1/2 minutes later to make it 2-0. Koivu corralled Lydman’s shot off the back boards and sent it across the crease to Selanne, who scored from the left side of the net.
Selanne made it 3-0 with a slapshot at 8:59 of the second period, but the Capitals got back into it when Ward and Wideman scored just over three minutes apart. Ward drilled a wrist shot through Hiller’s pads, and Wideman scored after Hiller botched an attempt to clear a puck that was sent the length of the ice by Vokoun.
Corey Perry got a power-play goal for Anaheim at 9:13 of the third period for a 4-2 lead.
NOTES: It was the only game of the season between the teams. … Capitals D Mike Green missed a third straight game because of a twisted right ankle, but D John Erskine made his season debut after being sidelined following shoulder surgery. … The Capitals recalled C Cody Eakin from Hershey of the AHL and assigned D Sean Collins to the same club. … Anaheim still has two games left in a 13-day, seven-game road trip that ends Saturday in Detroit.