The Washington Times - October 11, 2011, 01:14AM

Two games don’t make a season. Two games provide a very, very small sample size. But the one thing Alex Ovechkin has been good at for his entire career is shooting the puck – early, often and then more.

Every season he has been in the NHL, Ovechkin has been tops in overall shots on net – averaging over 5.3 shots per game. But there’s something to be said about the Capitals superstar’s game being a little off through two games.


He only has five total shots – and just one point. Ovechkin also has a minus-2 rating. And coach Bruce Boudreau expects better.

“I think he’s got a long way to go to get to where he wants to be – to be as good as should be,” Boudreau said Monday night after Washington’s 6-5 win over Tampa Bay. “He’s our No. 1 player, but he can be better. There’s no doubt about it.”

It’s not even just about the shots. Ovechkin, especially against the Lightning, struggled while trying to navigate the puck through multiple defenders. In his younger days those moves seemed to work well – but opponents now know what to expect.

From the point on the power play, Ovechkin (along with Mike Green) had trouble getting shots through masses of bodies to the net. Between periods, NBC analyst Mike Milbury – this is nothing new – criticized Ovechkin and Green for lack of defensive fundamentals and shot-blocking.

After a third-period Lightning goal, Doc Emrick and Pierre McGuire said Ovechkin needs to do a better job of clogging up shooting lanes.

And it might’ve been a painful night for Ovechkin, who on a few occasions took a glove off to look at his left hand.

The Caps’ highest-paid player did have a trying week after learning of the death of an uncle and flying to Moscow and back before playing in the opener and then again Monday night. And while Boudreau on Saturday night expected better out of Ovechkin in Game 2, it’s not good enough.

“I’m not going to make any excuses for him,” he said. “He’s got to be playing better.”

Ovechkin was not at his locker when reporters entered the room 10 minutes following the end of the game.