- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 15, 2006

One thing is certain — the Washington Capitals never will be the same.

Forty-three games into his NHL career, rookie left wing Alex Ovechkin already has accomplished things that many veterans never do. And as he adjusts to the league and a different style of play than what he is used to, he will only get better.

Ovechkin recorded his first hat trick (and sixth multi-goal game) Friday night as his Washington Capitals broke a six-game losing streak with a 3-2 overtime victory in Anaheim. It was the Caps’ first win in 2006 in seven tries.

Consider for a minute where the Caps would be without the brilliant newcomer. He has 30 goals, 20 more than the next Cap. He has 25 assists, which is six more than any teammate. He has 32 points more than his closest teammate and eight more power play goals than the next Washington player. Shots? He has 208 — his closest competitor doesn’t have half that many.

Among league rookies he is first in goals, power play goals and points and tied for third with three game-winning goals (and that doesn’t include the three shootout game-winners he has to his credit).

Among veterans and rookies alike through Friday’s action, his 208 shots are first and his 30 goals are third. His 12 power play goals are tied for fourth and his 55 points are eighth.

He has produced six goals and nine points in the past five games, he has 12 goals in the past 12 games and has scored all four of Washington’s goals two games into this road trip.

And he is 20 years old.

“He’s the real deal,” said Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle, a one-time Norris Trophy winner as the league’s top defenseman and a former Caps assistant. “We got beat by a very special player. He did everything he had to do to dominate the game.”

Speaking with reporters in Anaheim before the team flew to Phoenix for tomorrow’s matinee against the Coyotes, Ovechkin said, “I don’t think about how many points I’ll make, I just go to the ice and enjoy my time right now. I think everybody wants to win the Calder [Trophy as top rookie]. You have to improve and prove you are the best and enjoy your time.”

The Caps never trailed. Ovechkin scored twice in the second period with the Ducks adding a goal after each of the rookie’s first two scores. His final goal came 3:04 into overtime when he laced a shot through both the legs of the defender, whom he used as a screen, and those of goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

But Ovechkin was only part of the story Friday night. Olie Kolzig got the night off, and backup Brent Johnson turned in one of his best performances of the season. He made 32 stops and had little room for error, nursing at best a one-goal lead.

“Johnny played a great game,” coach Glen Hanlon said. “I thought he was a huge part of our win. We’re all extremely happy. We had to play our absolute best and [he made] some great saves. That was the difference in the game.”

That and Ovechkin.

Notes — Left wing Jeff Friesen returned to action after missing 28 games because of abdominal surgery. … The Caps are 10-0 this season when they hold the opposition to two or fewer goals. … Left wing Matt Pettinger (lower body) was the only medical scratch but there was no announcement as to whether he replaced Friesen on injured reserve. If not, then the Caps were above the maximum player limit of 23. … Coaching scratches were center Andrew Cassels and defensemen Mathieu Biron and Nolan Yonkman.

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