DENVER – When they were teammates, Nicklas Backstrom always had a tough time against Philipp Grubauer in practice.
The Washington Capitals veteran had better luck when they met as opponents Friday night.
Backstrom was left uncovered on a 4-on-3 power play and scored 22 seconds into overtime to lift the Capitals over the Colorado Avalanche 3-2.
“I used to struggle scoring in practice against Grubauer,” Backstram said. “He was probably used to me passing, too. Tom (Wilson) gave me a good pass and I was able to get the shot off.”
Alex Ovechkin and Devante Smith-Pelly also scored for the Capitals, and Pheonix Copley stopped 24 shots.
Colin Wilson and Carl Soderberg scored for the Avalanche while Grubauer, acquired by Colorado in an offseason trade with Washington to bolster their depth at goalie behind Semyon Varlamov, had 26 saves.
With 2:44 left in the third period, Ian Cole fired a shot from between the circles that glanced off Copley’s pads. The puck trickled out to the right side of the net, where Wilson tied it at 2.
The Capitals ended it on a 4-on-3 power play. Backstrom was left uncovered for a clean shot in the high slot that beat Grubauer on his stick side. Backstrom also had an assist.
“We drew a penalty and made the most of our chance,” Ovechkin said.
Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said he thought the Avalanche did not play with a sense of urgency early.
“Third period, different story,” he said. “We started ramping it up, that’s why we generated some chances in the third and they didn’t, because we were more desperate. I want us to play a whole game like we’re down a goal and bring that desperation and urgency to the game.”
With the score tied at 1, Tom Wilson started a rush and passed the puck ahead to Backstrom, who dished off to the streaking Ovechkin. He split defenders and let loose a wrist shot from the top of the right circle that sailed over Grubauer’s glove at 18:29 of the second.
Smith-Pelly pulled Washington Even 8:55 into the second off a cross-ice pass from Chandler Stephenson.
Colorado just missed adding a goal from Mark Barberio when his shot glanced off the right post at 11:01 of the second.
“A sloppy game by us,” Colin Wilson said. “They had more effort, a little more attention to detail. We turned it on in the last 10 minutes, but it was just too little, too late. Games like that, you want to eliminate them as much as possible. It wasn’t an X’s and O’s thing, just effort.
“Coming out with a point is better than no points at all,” Wilson added.
UP NEXTCapitals: Play at Montreal on Monday night.
Avalanche: Visit Anaheim on Sunday night.