There was a time when Bruce Boudreau never thought twice about which players to put out on the ice in the closing minute of a game the Capitals trailed by one goal.
In fact, he probably never even had to call out the names of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Semin. Whenever the clock dipped below 60 seconds they instinctively hopped over the boards.
Those days are gone. At least they were Tuesday night.
The new Bruce Boudreau makes bold, unpopular decisions, like sending the meat and potatoes line of Brooks Laich, Joel Ward and Jason Chimera out on the ice in the final minute against the weary Anaheim Ducks, then pulling Tomas Vokoun in favor of Backstrom.
It all paid off when Backtrom scored with 42 seconds remaining in regulation to send the game into overtime, then won it 2:18 into the extra period with an incredible play that gave the Capitals a stunning 5-4 victory at the rocking Verizon Center.
The win completed comebacks from deficits of 3-0 and 4-2 for the Capitals, who snapped their two-game losing streak in dramatic fashion.
So why was Backstrom on the ice and Ovechkin on the bench in that final minute of regulation?
You watched the game, you tell me, Boudreau replied. I thought other guys were better than him and there was a better chance other guys might score the goal.
Ive got to put out the guys that I think are going to score the goals and 99 percent of the time Alex is the guy I think is going to score the goal. I just didnt think he was going to score the goal at that time tonight. You go with your gut feeling and I got lucky.
Actually, the line of Laich (three assists), Ward (one goal, one assist) and Chimera (two assists) was dominant against the Ducks, especially in the second half of the game, after the Caps fell behind 3-0 on two goals by Teemu Selanne and another by his linemate Saku Koivu.
Laich, Chimera and Ward continued their physical assault on the Ducks top line of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan, wearing them down as Boudreau made a conscious effort to roll all four lines.
That led to Boudreaus decision to send them out there in the final minute and when Backstrom ripped a Chimera rebound past diving goaltender Jonas Hiller with 42 seconds remaining in regulation, the Caps had completed their second comeback of the game.
Boudreaus move undoubtedly was an unpopular one with Ovechkin, but he sent his captain back out on the ice for the 4-on-4 overtime and Ovechkin had a hand or at least a skate -- on Backstroms game-winner.
Backstrom showed his incredible versatility on the game-winner, starting the play by bulldozing Andrew Cogliano to the ice with a clean shoulder check, dishing the puck to Jeff Schultz, then going to the net for a return pass that ticked off the skate of Ovechkin.
Backstrom snapped a shot past Hiller before he had a chance to react, then was mobbed by his teammates as the Verizon Center shook with joy.
I was just lucky, Backstrom said. I just tried to get rid of it right away.
Luck had nothing to do with it, according to Backstroms teammates.
His skill set is unbelievable and his hockey IQ is amazing, Ward said.
Nickys such a patient player, said Tomas Vokoun, who allowed four goals on 15 shots but still picked up his eighth win in 10 starts. Most people have a panic point. His is a little farther than everybody else.