- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 4, 2012

MONTREAL Alex Ovechkin took just one shot on goal and played a shade under 20 minutes. It wasn’t the magnificent, light-up-Bell Centre sort of comeback that some in Montreal may have scripted, but the Washington Capitals’ captain emerged from his three-game suspension thrilled to be back on the ice.

“I feel pretty good fresh out there. I go back and forth; I was not tired. It’s a good sign for me,” Ovechkin said. “It’s just game situation and I miss it. I’m pretty happy we won and I’m pretty happy I was in that game.”

Ovechkin didn’t play much of a role in the Caps beating the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 on Saturday afternoon, though he had a couple noticeable passes or hustle plays that made it clear he was back.

But his impact was more than noticeable.

“Not just obviously his play, but emotional lift,” goaltender Tomas Vokoun said. “We did pretty decent without him – we went .500. Just emotional lift for everybody.”

Buoyed by Vokoun more so than their captain’s return, the Caps won in Montreal for the second time in two tries this season and temporarily moved into eighth place in the Eastern Conference, pending the result of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 7 p.m. game.

But Ovechkin’s return is about more than just one game. With Nicklas Backstrom (concussion) and Mike Green (sports hernia surgery) still out, the Caps need as many offensive weapons as they can get.

“Obviously we need him back,” defense man Dennis Wideman said. “Our power play wasn’t great tonight, but when he’s out there, they pay a lot of attention to him and that opens other things up. And when you can open them up and get a shot, he has a chance to score every time we load him up. It’s big for us to have him in the lineup.”

Ovechkin might have the one of the toughest individual turnarounds as the Caps have to play at 12:30 p.m. Sunday back at Verizon Center against the reeling but still defending Stanley Cup-champion Boston Bruins.

But he’s ready for it.

“I can’t wait to play tomorrow,” he said. “I feel good, I feel fresh and that’s what I missed that kind of 10 days.”

• Stephen Whyno can be reached at swhyno@washingtontimes.com.

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