Alex Ovechkin's sheer presence on the Verizon Center ice was enough to elicit cheers from the crowd Wednesday night. On his second shift though, Ovechkin recorded a big hit on Boston's Johnny Boychuk in the Capitals' defensive zone, kicking off what became a physical game and an eventual 3-2 Washington win.
The Capitals improved to a perfect 3-0 in the preseason as the three main contenders for the open third-line center position continue to up the ante with Mathieu Perreault (goal), Cody Eakin (goal) and Marcus Johansson (assist) each recording a point in the contest while Ovechkin added two primary assists. But Washington's captain acknowledged even he needs some time to get back into game rhythm.
"No, it's not normal," Ovechkin said when asked if he was instantly ready upon hitting the ice. "I think the first couple shifts I was just getting into the game and then, like okay, let's try to play hockey."
The physical contest -- with Boston outhitting the Capitals 22-14 -- was just the kind of atmosphere Ovechkin needed to reacclimate himself, even if his high-energy and hard-hitting style make the coaching staff worry about his health every now and again.
"Yeah, he makes us nervous," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "But it was his first game. He was getting his feet wet and he didn't play anywhere near the way he can play, but the check at the end made us nervous. Ovie is the leader and he plays the way he does but when [Gregory] Campbell hit him, if he doesn't duck his head he could have been seriously hurt. So, I don't blame him for going back at [Campbell]."
Ovechkin praised his first-time linemate, Perreault, who didn't waste a prime setup by the left wing in scoring the first goal of the game from the right faceoff circle. Perreault was given the chance to skate alongside Ovechkin and Mike Knuble on the top line against the Bruins when Tomas Fleischmann was held out of the lineup for precautionary reasons -- a situation that doesn't come without some jitters.
"For sure," Perreault said with a laugh when asked if he had butterflies. "Every time I get the puck, like 'Where's Ovie?' I want to get it to him."
You'll be able to read more about the on-going competition between Perreault, Eakin and Johansson, who are still in something of a dead heat half-way through the preseason, in the full game story for the hard-copy edition.