Rookie bounces Back

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:42 AM ET

WASHINGTON -- It's the kind of mistake that could haunt a player for years.

Maybe forever.

Washington Capitals rookie centre Nicklas Backstrom had a couple of nights to sleep off his brutal miscue Sunday afternoon -- scoring into his own goal to give the Pittsburgh Penguins the game-winner -- and is now trying to move forward.

"If I took it the wrong way, I couldn't smile right now," Backstrom said yesterday before the Caps played host to the Calgary Flames. "It's more I feel sorry for the team, but it happens, and I can't do anything about it right now.

"It's embarrassing, but it happens."

The gaffe -- Backstrom was trying to clear the puck from in front but slammed it into his own goal -- possibly put one of the final nails into the Capitals' playoff hopes.

However, the key will be to get the 20-year-old could-be NHL rookie of the year to shake it off. At least, he's saying the right things and hearing the right things from those around him.

Several teammates sought him out to cheer him up. Captain Chris Clark told him the tale of his own-goal while playing for the Calgary Flames, when he scored into an empty net while the goalie was pulled for an extra attacker.

Yet time will tell how quickly Backstrom recovers.

"Nicky would feel that way on Sunday because he cares so much and he's such a top-notch kid. We talked to him. Teammates phoned him. Teammates understand how much he means to this club," said coach Bruce Boudreau.

"It was just an honest mistake. I never get mad at mistakes like that, because it's not an error of missing a system or being lazy. It was an error of trying hard and things like that happen in life.

"I think he'll bounce back more than ever."

Caps owner Ted Leonsis added, "I'm sure he feels terrible, but the kid is going to win a hundred games for me in his career."

He likely will, especially with the talent he possesses.

Alexander Ovechkin is the main man in D.C., but Backstrom is a fantastic sidekick.

Drafted fourth overall in 2006, Backstrom has 11 goals and 48 assists in his freshman campaign. He has the passing skills to complement Ovechkin's shooting prowess.

"(Ovechkin)'s a pretty good goal scorer," Backstrom said with a chuckle. "I'm more of a passer -- pass more than I shoot. I don't know why, but that's how it is. And maybe that chemistry works."

Backstrom is a contender for the Calder Trophy, but that's not his focus.

"Oh, I don't think about that," he said. "I don't think I'll get it, either. I'm just going to play the games left and see what happens."

Besides, he's still alive in the playoff chase, which is a big plus for a young player.

"I've never been in a different situation because it's my first year, and we were in the playoffs the two years I played (in the men's league) in Sweden," he said. "The playoffs are what you want, and it's a good goal for the team."


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