The Alexander Ovechkin show was in full force again today as the Great #8 pumped in three goals to lead the Washington Capitals to a wild 7-4 win over the Ottawa Senators at the once again sold out Verizon Center. Ovechkin, who has one of the best shots in the league, scored on a slap shot off a great Mike Green feed, on the power play, to give the Caps a 2-1 lead in the first period and then he scored twice on blistering shots in the second period, which closed with Washington up 6-2.
“When he scores a goal like he did in the second goal, you forget how hard his shot is sometimes. You know it’s hard, you know it beats through goalies and everything, but you see that and from the bench, you can’t even see it. Those are ‘wow’ moments. A lot of ‘wow’ moments come when people try to hit him and they bounce off of him. That’s where a consistent ‘wow’ moment comes. He’s so strong,” said Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau about Ovechkin’s shot and play.
Ovechkin now has 36 goals on the year and leads second place Jeff Carter, of Philadelphia, by four goals in the race for the Rocket Richard Trophy. The Caps scored 11 goals this weekend and the Great #8 had five of them.
“It was a good time for our team. We win two games in a row against two good teams. We just want to win the game. It doesn’t matter against who we play. We play two against good teams and good thing happen. I think we just played with [the] same energy as we played [the] last ten minutes last night against Detroit,” said Ovechkin on the Caps back to back home games.
Brent Johnson got the call for Washington in net and it was his first appearance since a 5-4 loss in Montreal on January 10th. Johnson gave up four goals but they weren’t necessarily all his fault as there were screens, deflections, and defensive breakdowns in the Washington end. Daniel Alfredsson’s goal to open the contest seemed to deflect in off of Caps defensemen Shaone Morrisonn and shortly thereafter “Johnny” came up with another big save on the Sens captain to keep it a one goal game before the Ovechkin show took off. Boudreau, when asked about Johnson, thought the goaltender did what he had to do today to help the team win.
“He made the big save at the big time. That’s all we care about… It was 4-2 and [Jason] Spezza broke in on the power play and he made that big save right then and that tells me that you’ve got a big league goalie,” said Boudreau.
As for Green, well he just continues to improve and put the puck in the net. Green also added three assists to go with his 15th goal of the season, which leads all NHL defensemen (he also has the most points by defensemen with 40).
“He’s averaging over a point a game. Big game guy. When the games get big, he’s there. What we like even more is his defensive game…So you add the offense to the defense and you’ve got a pretty good package there for a guy who can log up to 30 minutes a game,” said Boudreau on #52.
Alexander Semin, who has made some costly mistakes lately, played better today and he scored his first goal in five games on a breakaway (set up via a great pass by Green) that gave Washington a 5-2 lead. Semin still took a penalty today, although that call was very questionable, and had two giveaways, something he needs to correct.
“That was a sick pass by Mike Green. To have the wherewithal to see him going, to see the situation and to just flip it over everybody and let it go in and Alex [Semin] has that kind of skill. Hopefully, that will jump start him a little bit,” added Boudreau on the Semin goal.
The Caps are now 32-15-4 (68 points) and have a 13 point lead over second place Carolina in the Southeast Division. With today’s win they also jumped over the New Jersey Devils into second place in the Eastern Conference. The Devils are one point back and have a game in hand on the Caps. The Caps and Devils play for the last time in the regular season on Tuesday night in East Rutherford. The Caps are 1-0-2 against New Jersey with the two losses coming in the shootout.
Notes: Sergei Fedorov had three assists and Nicklas Backstrom had an empty net goal and two assists today. The Caps first two power play goals came off of successive offensive zone faceoff wins by Backstrom and Fedorov. Dave Steckel and Chris Clark were healthy scratches and something could be happening with Clark, who has struggled to return to form after his severe groin injury from last season, over the next several days so stay tuned. Michael Nylander was 2-10 on faceoffs and only played 13:36 of ice time. Defensemen Jeff Schultz played 23:08 and was +4 while defensemen Milan Jurcina went +2 with 18:08 of ice time. Tom Poti had one of the worst plays of the day when he took a Caps defensive zone faceoff win, skated in front of the net while shorthanded, and carelessly allowed Ottawa superstar forward Dany Heatley to poke the puck off of his stick and past Johnson into the net to make it a 6-4 game with 8:32 remaining. Poti, being a 10 year NHL veteran, should know better and he needs to take the puck behind the net in that situation. As pointed out to me by Rob Yunich of Storming the Crease (http://www.stormingthecrease.com/), Ovechkin’s next goal will be the 200th goal of his career.