Rare Backstrom hat trick powers Caps’ win against Bolts

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To some, Nicklas Backstrom is basically the Swedish Joe Thornton, as he piles up assists while rarely scoring many goals.

Let’s hope he doesn’t ponder the same sort of celebrations that “Jumbo Joe” mentioned regarding Tomas Hertl’s four-goal night, however, as Backstrom showed he’s not a total slouch in the goals department tonight.

His first career regular-season hat trick powered the Washington Capitals’ 4-2 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday.

Here’s video of Backstrom’s trio, which included two Alex Ovechkin assists:

Speaking of unusual events, the hat haul apparently included a Santa cap:

Apparently Backstrom’s scored a hat trick in his NHL career, just not in the regular season, as Mike Vogl of the team’s website notes that he collected one against the Montreal Canadiens in Game 2 of that tide-turning 2010 playoff series:

Sharks’ Grosenick posts 45-save shutout over Canes in NHL debut

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Troy Grosenick celebrated his 25th birthday in August and entered this season without much hope of being part of the San Jose Sharks’ opening game roster. Goaltenders Antti Niemi and Alex Stalock were locks to make the team and if it wasn’t for the fact that Stalock is out with a knee injury, Grosenick would still be working on his craft in the AHL.

Grosenick got a golden opportunity today though and he did everything in his power to show he can be an NHL goaltender, stopping all 45 shots he faced in a 2-0 victory over Carolina. He’s the first Sharks netminder to open his career with a shutout or 45 saves, per the NHL.

San Jose only managed 19 shots on goal, but Tomas Hertl’s fancy stickwork made that enough.

Joe Thornton collected the empty-netter to extend his point streak to six games.

The Sharks have now won two of their last three games to improve to 10-8-2 this season. Carolina has dropped three straight games to fall to 5-9-3.

Hertl responds to demotion, back on Sharks’ top line

After an ugly slump that saw him dropped to the fourth line, San Jose sophomore Tomas Hertl has responded with four points in his last four games and, on Tuesday, a promotion to the club’s No. 1 unit prior to tonight’s game in Florida.

“It was a message,” head coach Todd McLellan said of Hertl’s demotion, per CSN Bay Area. “But it was also to reset him and to restart him.”

Hertl, 20, has seven points through 16 games this season — a decent clip, but less than the 0.68 points-per-game he averaged during 37 contests in his rookie campaign (Hertl finished with 15 goals and 25 points in 37 games). There are heightened expectations for the former first-round pick but, according to McLellan, Hertl is still learning the ropes of the NHL — especially since his first year was cut short with a significant knee injury.

“We can’t get fooled or tricked into the fabulous start that he had,” McLellan said. “He settled in and played like a rookie last year, and he’s still at that stage. I’ve banged that drum 100 times now.

“I think Tomas is getting better as the games go on. You see him more involved.”

PHT Morning Skate: Tarasenko’s goal is even better in flip book form

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

The case for Marc-Andre Fleury’s contract extension. (Pensburgh)

The Chicago Blackhawks are happy with their goaltending so far. (CSNChicago.com)

Is it wrong to deem Patrik Elias “over the hill?” The Newark Star-Ledger argues that it’s an unfair description. (Newark Star-Ledger)

Tomas Hertl and the sophomore slump. (Puck Daddy)

Alex Ovechkin is now one of 30 people who hold NHL franchise scoring records. How does he compare to the other 29? (Japers Rink)

Interesting stuff on the original Rocket Richard Trophy. (Greatest Hockey Legends)

Jason Spezza finds his copy of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and urges us not to panic. (Dallas Morning News)

Vladimir Tarasenko’s highlight reel goal against the New York Rangers inspired this beautiful “animated” treatment:

Compare it to the actual goal:

Slumping Caps to keep Wilson with Ovechkin, Backstrom

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Losers in five of their last six, the Washington Capitals are looking to bump the slump tonight at home against Calgary — and they’ll be leaning on their new-look top line to get it done.

Sophomore power forward Tom Wilson, playing in just his fourth game of the year, will stick with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin after the trio joined forces for the first time in Sunday’s loss to Arizona. While the move might come as a surprise to some — Wilson was a fourth-liner for almost all of last year — it’s something that head coach Barry Trotz has wanted to implement for a while.

From the Washington Post:

Before Wilson fractured his fibula in what the Capitals called “a fall,” Coach Barry Trotz envisioned the 20-year-old skating beside Ovechkin and Backstrom, complementing the skilled top-line cornerstones with a physicality — “a bite,” Trotz called it. But the injury demanded patience, months of it, and accepting that Wilson needed time to heal before that possibility could become reality.

“He can also keep, as I say, the flies off him, if people want to take liberties,” Trotz said. “I know both [Ovechkin and Backstrom] can take care of themselves pretty well, but when you see 6-foot-5 young Mr. Wilson out there as well, who’s got a little bit of an edge, you think twice.”

Against Arizona, Wilson played a career-high 15:04 and tied Ovechkin with a team-high five hits, playing the big-bodied power role the club envisioned when it selected Wilson 16th overall at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft — one spot ahead of San Jose sniper Tomas Hertl.

“We don’t have enough net presence,” Trotz explained, per NHL.com. “We don’t have a lot of interior play. We need to be a better cycle team, we need to be a better down-low, filter-everything-to-the-net type of team. If we’re going to have success, we’re not at the net enough for me.

“If we’re at the net a little bit more, we’re going to keep things alive, we’re going to score a few more goals.”

Related: Trotz: ‘Some of the behavior has to change’