On Saturday, Alex Ovechkin talked about how important it was for the Capitals to win, to put everything together and win. On Sunday, Ovechkin followed up those words with his best game of the season so far and scored the game winner in Washington’s 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres.
“When he moves his feet, he’s the best player in the world. That’s what he can do. You could tell through two periods that even though he didn’t have anything he was playing good,” Jason Chimera said. “You could tell he was on the forecheck, he was getting to guys, he was in the cycle. That’s what we need from him. When he does that, people follow. That’s the name of the game.”
From start to finish, Ovechkin was a ferocious presence on the forecheck. He chased down pucks to negate two icing calls, prevented an odd-man rush in the second period and downright flustered the Sabres at times as they tried to fend him off.
At 6:22 of the first period, he steamrolled Buffalo’s 6-foot-8, 227 pound defenseman Tyler Myers along the boards. By the end of the contest, Ovechkin finished with three hits, five shots on goal with no attempts blocked and only one that missed the target.
He started the game skating with Jay Beagle and Joey Crabb once again but early in the second, Coach Adam Oates put Ovechkin back with his usual linemates from last season – Nicklas Backstrom and Troy Brouwer.
“We had a couple penalties, guys got caught out there and Ovi hadn’t had a shift in a while,” Oates said, “So I put him with Nick and Troy and I just said, ‘You know what, let’s just stay with it.’”
Ovechkin acknowledged that there was a different jump when they were reunited.
“I think again I think it’s more mentally and the guys get in shape. When you in shape you have more power and more physicality,” Ovechkin said. “I think our line – Brouwsy and me can hit and you can see when we have the puck control in our hands it’s very tough to get it back. So it was good.”
With Buffalo’s Alexander Sulzer in the penalty box for firing the puck over the glass, the Capitals went to work on their third power play of the afternoon. Mike Green sent the puck to Ovechkin in the left circle a first time on that man advantage but the star winger couldn’t tee-up the shot.
The second time Green sent the puck his way, Ovechkin let loose a blistering one-timer that Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller had no chance to stop. It was a classic Ovechkin goal.
“I just tell him I just needed one perfect pass and it goes in. So he give me a couple,” Ovechkin said of Green’s setup. But the Washington captain didn’t want to dwell on the fact that he ended a four-game scoring slump, only that the Capitals ended their four-game losing streak.
“I knew it was gonna come sooner or later,” Ovechkin said. “I think today we play very well offensively and start play responsible and defensive. And I think it’s conditioning stuff. We’re get in shape and you can see how we move. We stop. We not make circles. And it’s working. You can see how we play today.”
And when Ovechkin is fired up and playing well, so are the rest of the Capitals.
“When Ovi’s leading us like that, it’s tough not to follow,” Chimera said. “When he turns his wheels like that, and he’s the captain of our team, we can’t help but follow him. When he plays like that, it just goes right through the team.”