This was the breakout game Alex Ovechkin needed. And when the Caps needed their star to step up, he did. It was a perfect night for The Great 8 to have A Great Night.
Having seen the visiting Penguins completely dominate the first 12 minutes of the final period, Ovechkin took matters into his own hands in the final 7 minutes on Monday night, scoring twice to complete the hat trick and help Washington to a 4-3 win at Verizon Center and stake the Caps to a 2-0 lead in their best of 7 series with Pittsburgh.
This is a game the Penguins will sorely regret losing.
Tied at 2 going into the final 20 minutes, Pittsburgh took control early in the final stanza and at one point, having kept the puck in Washington’s zone for nearly 90 seconds, veteran announcer Mike Emerick said, “It’s like the Penguins are on the power play.” The visitors controlled play and looked a good bet to even the series with their high-powered offense on full display throughout the first half of the 3rd period.
But when the Pens couldn’t light the lamp, the Caps made them pay. Ovechkin ripped a shot past Marc-Andre Fleury just four seconds into a power play and Washington went ahead, 3-2, with 7:07 to play. A few minutes later, Ovechkin humbled ex-Cap defenseman Sergei Gonchar in a 1-on-1 situation and snapped a 20-footer over Fleury to give the Caps a 2-goal lead. Sydney Crosby’s 3rd goal of the game in the final half minute on a power play finalized the scoring at 4-3.
The victory not only puts the Caps up 2-0 but it puts ALL the pressure on Pittsburgh as the teams head up the Turnpike for Game 3 (Wednesday) and Game 4 (Friday). Washington has full command now — and the Penguins have to know nothing less than a 2-game sweep in their building will be good enough.
After a grueling 7-game series with the Rangers, the Caps would serve themselves well to make quick work of Pittsburgh in this series. It goes without saying that a four or five game series triumph would go a long way in giving time for Washington to get ready for the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston/Carolina winner.
First though, there’s hockey to be played in Pittsburgh.
And, in fairness to the Pens, they’ve played Washington fairly even through the first two games. The difference, for the most part? Goaltending. Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury has been very good. But Washington’s rookie Simeon Varlamov has been better. The two superstars have made their contributions. Both Ovie and Crosby scored once in Game 1 and three times in Game 2.
Right now, though, Ovechkin is winning on the big board…the one that says: Caps 2 games – Penguins 0 games.