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Ovechkin dazzles in Caps’ victory

- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 19, 2009

Alex Ovechkin had the defining memory of the evening, and his linemates ensured the Washington Capitals collected two points.

Ovechkin had another highlight-reel goal, while both Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom scored in the shootout to propel the Caps to a 4-3 victory Wednesday night against the Montreal Canadiens at sold-out Verizon Center.

"I've seen [Ovechkin's famous 2006 goal against Phoenix] about 1,000 times on TV, but I thought that goal [tonight] was as amazing a goal as I have ever seen," Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said.

Washington has now won three games in a row and moved into sole possession of second place in the Eastern Conference, two points ahead of idle New Jersey.

YouTube:Click here to see video of Ovechkin in action.

Ovechkin's goal, one of the most impressive of his distinguished four-year career, came midway through the opening period. Roman Hamrlik's defense partner, Mike Komisarek, missed him with a rinkwide pass, and then Ovechkin beat him to it as it caromed off the boards.

Last year's MVP backhanded the puck to himself off the left boards - throwing in a flashy spin move to maneuver around Hamrlik - and then broke for the net. Montreal's Kyle Chipchura hauled Ovechkin down as he tried to go around him with one hand on his stick, but the Russian superstar had enough body control to keep possession of the puck and then slip it inside the near post as he slid between the hash marks on his backside.

"You have to try something new," Ovechkin said of the spin-o-rama in the neutral zone. "Sometimes I try in practice, and [teammates] say, 'What are you doing?' Sometimes I just need to change my game, and it is working."

David Steckel also said the goal ranked up there with the January 2006 effort against Phoenix, known as "The Goal."

"I'd probably rank that one No. 2 [behind 'The Goal']," Steckel said. "He was on his back again, and he still has the hockey sense to stay with it and keep his head down on it. I thought it was pretty amazing."

The goal was Ovechkin's 43rd of the season and fifth in the past three games. When he was shown sitting on the bench during the next media timeout after another replay of the goal, he cupped his glove to his ear, and the crowd gave him a thunderous roar.

"I don't understand fans - they are screaming, and then after [a few minutes] they are just like, 'OK, here we go again, game,' " Ovechkin said. "I was like, 'C'mon, guys.' "

Hamrlik received another dose of humility less than three minutes later. Backstrom and Sergei Fedorov worked a perfect give-and-go with the Caps on the power play, spinning Hamrlik around and opening a lane for Backstrom to deposit his 14th goal of the season.

Washington outplayed Montreal in the opening 20 minutes with a decisive advantage in five-on-five play and the two highlight-reel goals but went to the intermission locked in a 2-2 tie.

The Canadiens capitalized on a pair of power-play opportunities to keep pace. Christopher Higgins gave Montreal a 1-0 lead 2:33 into the game - and five seconds after defenseman Mike Green went to the box for putting the puck over the glass in his own end.

Andrei Kostitsyn leveled the score at 2-2 with 2:57 remaining in the opening period with another extra-man marker. His shot from the bottom of the left faceoff circle was deflected by Caps defenseman John Erskine, and the puck tumbled up and over goalie Jose Theodore's shoulder.

Tomas Plekanec gave the Canadiens a 3-2 lead with Montreal's third power-play goal of the night 8:57 into the final period. The tally came nine seconds after Semin went to the penalty box for hooking. Plekanec's slap shot from near the bottom of the right circle just squeezed past Theodore on the short side, deflecting off the inside of the near post.

Pressing for the tying goal, Boudreau moved Fedorov to defense, forcing a line shakeup, and the new third unit produced the equalizer. Steckel won a faceoff that Brooks Laich directed back to Tom Poti, and then Steckel tipped the defenseman's point shot past Montreal goalie Carey Price for his seventh tally of the season with 2:39 left in regulation.

"I just spun off [the faceoff] and went to the net," Steckel said. "Tom had a great shot - I thought our 'D' did a great job of getting pucks through tonight."