New York Rangers forward Artem Anisimov never saw it coming. Midway through the second period of the Capitals 3-2 win over the New York Rangers, Anisimov had Nicklas Backstrom lined up along the right wing boards.
But just as he lowered his shoulder to send Backstrom into the third row of seating at the Verizon Center, Backstrom knocked him to the ice with a pre-emptive shoulder.
Seconds later, with Anisimov dusting ice shavings from his pants, Backstrom ripped a shot over Henrik Lundqvists left shoulder to give the Caps a 2-1 lead.
I think he took a page out of Peter Forsbergs book, said Capitals left wing Jason Chimera. Usually, guys dont expect to get hit when theyre trying to hit a guy with the puck. Hes done that a lot. Thats why we dont go after him at practice.
At 6-foot-1, 213 pounds, Backstrom is a lot like Forsberg -- deceptively strong, wildly creative and pinpoint accurate. Forsberg perfected the art of giving a hit before receiving one more than a decade ago and teammates say Backstrom has been imitating his Swedish countryman ever since.
I know that Nicky likes playing like Forsberg and he likes that style, Troy Brouwer said. Hes a big boy and a strong kid so he can create a lot of space for himself.
Backstroms grit level has steadily increased since his return from a concussion with four games remaining in the regular season. Backstrom managed a goal and an assist in his final game of the regular season against the Rangers.
Through 10 playoff games Backstrom is second on the Capitals with six points 2 goals, 4 assists, behind only Alex Ovechkin 4 goals, 3 assists.
It looks like hes back to his old self, Chimera said. He could have had three or four goals on Saturday. I think it was his best game since returning.
With the Eastern Conference semifinals now down to a best-of-three, Chimera said Backtroms pre-emptive check on Anisimov should serve notice to the rest of the Rangers who try to knock him off the puck. Capitals coach Dale Hunter agreed.
Hes strong on his feet and hes got great balance, Hunter said. Forsberg did it a few times to me, so Id go in very slowly against him.