WASHINGTON (AP) The Washington Capitals were glad to see Nicklas Backstrom back in the lineup.
Backstrom had a goal and two assists in his season debut to lead the Washington Capitals to a 4-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night.
Backstrom, who led the NHL with 60 assists last season, missed the team's first three games while recovering from arthroscopic hip surgery in late May. The center scored in the third period and assisted on power-play goals from T.J. Oshie (one goal, one assist) and John Carlson.
''That's how special he is,'' Washington coach Barry Trotz said. ''When you watch a guy who hasn't played any exhibition games, and he comes into ... a fast game against a fast team and he looked like he never missed a beat. You realize how good he is once he's back in the lineup and what he does for our lineup.''
Backstrom said he was happy to finally make it back to the ice after the surgery and a long period of recovery.
''I was coming into this game with an attitude to win,'' Backstrom said. ''That's all I was thinking about. It was also nice to be back on the ice. It's fun to practice but it's nicer to play games.''
Washington broke the game open with three third-period goals, the last coming from Alex Ovechkin.
Carolina goalie Cam Ward kept the game close, finishing with 30 saves and robbing the Capitals several times. However, the Hurricanes did little on offense, finishing with one goal or fewer for the third time in their first five games.
The lone Carolina goal came when Jeff Skinner banked a shot off Washington goalie Braden Holtby's foot with 12:15 left. That cut the lead to 2-1.
Washington finished with a 34-19 edge in shots, and Holtby made 18 saves.
The Capitals often controlled the tempo with their fast-paced offense. They pressured Carolina throughout the opening period and held a 17-5 edge in shots.
''They're a fast team,'' Skinner said. ''They can move the puck well. I think we were a little bit on our heels. It seemed like they sort of controlled the pace of the play.''
But despite that pressure and creating several scoring chances early, the Capitals did not break through until Oshie one-timed Backstrom's feed past Ward with 4:03 left in the first.
Washington held a 20-5 edge in shots early in the second period before Carolina got seven straight shots thanks to overlapping penalties that gave the Hurricanes a two-man advantage for 38 seconds. They also angered Holtby during that stretch because, at one point, he got knocked down and his mask came off.
Still, the Hurricanes took at least two more shots towards the goal, one of which came from Justin Faulk and went in. The officials waved it off before Holtby - who came up screaming at the Carolina players for shooting with his mask off - added two more big saves moments later to keep the 1-0 lead.
Holding Carolina without a goal on those two penalties seemed to fire up the Capitals. They held the Hurricanes without a shot for the final 11:56 of that second period.
Then, Backstrom scored 1:38 into third period on a shot from near the right-wing boards. After Skinner's goal, Carlson beat Ward on a shot from just inside the blue line. Ovechkin added an unassisted goal with 3:49 left.
NOTES: Backstrom now has 49 points in 42 career games against Carolina. ... Ovechkin needs one more point to reach 900 for his career. ... Brooks Laich played in his 686th game with the Capitals, moving him into 10th place in franchise history. ... Carolina's Faulk saw his four-game point-scoring streak end.