- The Washington Times - Monday, January 26, 2009

MONTREAL | This weekend might be remembered as much for what Alex Ovechkin accomplished off the ice as what he did on it.

For sure, his antics in the breakaway challenge Saturday night as part of the NHL SuperSkills competition will be viewed on YouTube many times over, but even more significant might be the new, more civil relations in the perceived personal cold war with Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.

Ovechkin and Malkin spent some time together this weekend - that alone is an improvement from last season’s All-Star weekend in Atlanta - and appear to have put their feud behind them.

“We talked lots, and now I think we understand each other,” said Ovechkin, who had a goal, two assists and the winning shootout tally Sunday night in the 57th NHL All-Star Game, which ended with a 12-11 victory for the East. “It is like we’re friends, but on the ice it will still be the same rivals.”

Added Atlanta Thrashers star Ilya Kovalchuk: “I think everything is good. They are friends. They play the game right way - that’s why they hit each other. If you are Russian, that does not mean you can’t get hit.”

It is rare for players in this sport to have such a strained relationship, and having two of the most talented guys in the league with their history made it a salivating story for media both here and in Russia.

Ovechkin and Malkin were drafted first and second overall in the 2004 draft and were once pretty good friends. They spent their first NHL All-Star weekend hanging out together in Dallas and were roommates at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.

There have been problems since the summer before last season, and the prevailing opinion is it stemmed from a reported altercation in a nightclub in their home country. Much has been written and said about Ovechkin’s desire to seek out Malkin on the ice during matchups between their respective teams.

But this weekend, perhaps with the help of Kovalchuk, the pair were able to work out some of their differences. Malkin assisted Ovechkin with his wardrobe additions and a squirt of Gatorade during the trick-shot contest.

When Ovechkin tallied the first goal for the Eastern Conference squad on a nifty give-and-go with Boston’s Marc Savard, Malkin stood at the bench and tapped his stick off the boards with a broad smile.

“Oh yeah, we spend a lot of time [together],” Kovalchuk said earlier Sunday. “It has been a fun weekend so far. Hopefully it will be a fun game tonight and there will be time for more fun after the game.”

The five Russians on the East roster - Ovechkin, Malkin, Kovalchuk, Andrei Markov and All-Star Game MVP Alex Kovalev - all posed for a photo with a Russian flag before the game. They might not be roommates at the upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver, but Ovechkin and Malkin are likely to be the featured attractions on a loaded Russian entry in the tournament.

Ovechkin and Malkin could even be linemates. While the soap opera between the two might have been great for the media, there was a sense that it has become a bit worn out.

“I think everybody is tired of listening about all that stuff with them fighting,” Kovalchuk said. “They just decided to put on a show [Saturday] night, and it worked out real well, so everybody is now going to think they are friends again.”

Added Ovechkin: “It is enough like, seriously - it is enough.”

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