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Ovechkin’s flash finally burns bright

- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 25, 2009

It took four games plus nearly two periods to witness the first "Alex moment" of the Washington Capitals' Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the New York Rangers.

And with all due respect to Matt Bradley's two-goal outburst, it was the moment of the Capitals' 4-0 win Friday in Game 5 at Verizon Center, and it set the tone for Sunday's Game 6.

The Caps aren't done yet.

After the Caps played their second dominant game of the series, there's one reason they can rally: Alex Ovechkin has taken his game to another level.

Sure, he was playing hard and well in the first four-plus games, but starting with the third period of Game 4, the Moscow Dynamo has been another kind of dynamite.

Ovechkin's goals through the first 11 periods of the series: zero. Ovechkin's goals in periods 12-14: two.

"He's been playing great the whole series," defenseman Brian Pothier said. "If he wasn't scoring, he was diving to save a breakaway and pitching in defensively. [Scoring] was inevitable."

Just when it appeared the stage would belong to Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, Ovechkin has scored twice and hit the post once in the last 80 minutes of game action.

On a truly bizarre night in Chinatown - Bradley's goals, Lundqvist looking mortal and Rangers coach John Tortorella propelling a water bottle into the stands after being doused - Ovechkin's goal with 29 seconds left in the second period was the highlight. The play took seven seconds. To Chris Drury and Derek Morris, it probably seemed to last seven minutes.

36.9 seconds: Ovechkin gets possession a few strides outside the Caps' zone.

34.5 seconds: He enters the Rangers' zone one-on-two and makes a sharp turn toward the middle.

33.3 seconds: Drury whiffs on a check.

32.0 seconds: Ovechkin puts the puck between Morris' skates to deke him out of the play.

"The moves he makes, they're so quick," said Caps blueliner John Erskine, who was on the ice. "There's not a lot you can do [as a defenseman]. He's so quick and so strong, you have to put the stick on the puck and take the body, but he weighs about 230 [pounds] out there so that's pretty tough to do."

31.6 seconds: Ovechkin regains control of the puck by kicking it with left skate to his stick.

"My head was spinning around trying to see what the [heck] he was doing," Capitals defenseman Tom Poti said.

30.3 seconds: Losing his balance and with the Rangers' Aaron Voros about to land on him, Ovechkin backhands the shot past Lundqvist.

"I wish I could do it," Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It was pretty nice."

Where does it rank in Ovechkin's best? Certainly not in the category of the miracle against Phoenix his rookie season, but it's up there.

"He's got a lot of goals to put in a scrapbook," Pothier said. "It reminded me of the goal against Montreal [this season]. He never gives up on a play. The goalie never knows what to expect; even if he's on his back or whatever, he's going to shoot."

Said center Nicklas Backstrom: "Maybe top 10. He has such incredible goals every year."

Ovechkin leads the series with 38 shots on goal and will need to star if the Caps are to extend the series with a Game 6 win Sunday. And if the final period of Game 4 and all of Game 5 are any indication, Ovechkin plans on willing his team to Game 7 on Tuesday night.

"It's our goal," he said of returning home. "We never give up."