Ovechkin Has Nose for Net

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 1, 2008

Alex Ovechkin's night began with him lying face down on the ice after being whacked unintentionally across the face by Alex Kovalev's stick, a blow that opened a wound on the inside of his cheek.

It ended with the Washington Capitals all-star sitting atop the NHL in points for the first time in his stellar three-season career after scoring four goals, including the winner in overtime, to lift the Capitals to 5-4 victory at Verizon Center and strengthen his candidacy for the Hart Trophy, given to the league's MVP.

Along the way, his nose was also broken by Francis Bouillon's shoulder check, and an errant puck left him bleeding on the inside of his lower lip.

"Today was special day," said Ovechkin, who has scored three or more goals four times in his career, but not at home until last night's scintillating performance. "I broke my nose, I have stitches, I score four goals. Everything go to my face. It's the fifth time I broke my nose. It's okay."

Ovechkin, who also had an assist, moved into sole possession of the NHL scoring lead with 70 points, two more than Ottawa's Daniel Alfredsson and Tampa Bay's Vinny Lecavalier. The 22-year-old Russian, who signed the league's wealthiest contract -- a 13-year, $124 million deal three weeks ago -- also leads the league in goals with 43, five more than Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk.

"He's an amazing person," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Don't get him angry."

His goal in overtime made sure he and his teammates didn't go home that way.

The Capitals took a 4-3 lead into the final minute of play, but Canadiens winger Guillaume Latendresse jammed a loose puck from underneath Washington goalie Olie Kolzig (17 saves) with 33 seconds remaining in regulation to steal a point and force overtime. Montreal had pulled goaltender Cristobal Huet for a sixth attacker.

Ovechkin, however, secured both points in the standings for the Capitals when he fired a rebound past Huet (33 saves) with 1 minute 26 seconds remaining in the extra session. Defenseman Jeff Schultz sent a pass to Ovechkin, who whiffed on the first attempt but got all of the second.

"Ovie plays with an edge, and you know the saying, 'Don't wake up a sleeping giant?' Not saying Ovie sleeps every night, but he threw it into an extra gear" after being slashed by Kovalev, Kolzig said.

It was Ovechkin's second four-goal game of the season; the other was in an 8-6 win at Ottawa on Dec. 29.

The victory comes two days after Washington was throttled in Montreal, 4-0. It also extended the Capitals' streak of not losing back-to-back games in regulation to 31, and stretched their home winning streak to five games. That, after opening the season a league-worst 2-7-0 in the District.

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