Time was ticking down and the Capitals were clinging to a 3-2 lead over the Toronto Maple Leafs Sunday afternoon when right wing Troy Brouwer banked a clearing attempt hard off the boards.
Caps center Nicklas Backstrom hustled down the ice and caught up to the puck just as it approached the empty net. But instead of putting an explanation point on the victory by hammering the puck into the empty cage, Backstrom shielded off a backchecking Dion Phaneuf, allowing the puck to cross the goal line with 3.9 seconds remaining.
“It is the best move a person can do that I’ve ever seen,” Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said. “It just sums up the type of person he is.”
Backstrom easily could have scored his 14th goal of the season. Instead, his unselfish play gave Brouwer his second goal of the game and 20th of the season.
“Nick’s one of the best players in the world,” Alzner said. “That’s just who he is. He said he was a little nervous there because there was more snow than he expected piled up in the crease. It almost didn’t make it, but it was amazing that he thought about that.”
Capitals coach Adam Oates was asked if a play like that goes a long way inside a locker room.
“For him, that’s already been established,” Oates said. “They already know that about him. That’s a very unselfish thing. It’s just fantastic. That’s who he is.”