Alex Ovechkin hasn't been a stranger to physical play this season, oftentimes using hits to try to make a difference in games. With goals not coming as frequently as he would like, though, the Washington Capitals captain made it known that he's paid to score and not just hit.
Tuesday night, he did both.
Ovechkin came out flying in his first shift, dishing out a couple big hits, and then turned in a vintage performance on a goal that ignited Verizon Center on an emotional night.
"Especially in the first when we needed a lift, he came out and he played hard," coach Dale Hunter said after the Caps' 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators. "Just not him but I thought the team did."
More so than any other game this year, Ovechkin was responsible for setting the tone in a positive way. His hits early on were part of a concerted effort to wear down the Predators, and it worked well, especially the trio of Ovechkin, Brooks Laich and Troy Brouwer.
"I think we’re three of the biggest guys on the team. And two of the guys can skate. I’m a little slow. But we move well," Brouwer said. "We cycled the puck real well, we interchanged real well. We were filling each other’s places on the ice and that just gives us a chance to get hits and make it so that their D-men don’t want to go back and get the puck."
Ovechkin did his thing at the 7:42 mark of the first, taking advantage of a perfect stretch pass by Karl Alzner and undressing Predators defenseman Jonathon Blum before streaking to the net and putting one low glove-side on Anders Lindback.
Hunter had nothing but positive things to say about Ovechkin on this night.
"He's a special player," the coach said. "He came out here hitting and scoring and passing the puck. He was a complete player tonight."
Ovechkin's goal was just his 11th of the season, but the way he played all over the ice Tuesday was a big part of the reason the Caps were able to cruise past a hard-working, defensive-minded Nashville group.
"I think we want to dictate our game and we want to dictate our style and system," Ovechkin said. "It was pretty cool."
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