Throughout his career, Alex Ovechkin has been among the NHL’s leaders in shots on goal. His willingness to fire the puck on net from any angle, at any time was one of his trademark characteristics.

Recently, though,Ovechkin hasn’t been shooting with the same volume or accuracy – his two shots on goal in Washington’s 3-0 loss to Carolina Friday is just the most recent example. In the past 10 games, Ovechkin has recorded five or more shots on goal just once, and he’s only done it twice in the last 14.

He’s far from the only one on the team not putting pucks on net. It’s become something of a trend for Washington to be out-shot by its opponents. But as goes Ovechkin, so go the Capitals.

Asked if he has to encourage Ovechkin to shoot more, Coach Dale Hunter said the all-star left wing knows.

“Alex knows when to shoot. Last night our power play wasn’t very good and Alex didn’t have a lot of chances,” Hunter said. Carolina “did a pretty good job on him through the neutral zone picking him up. He knows he has to shoot; he comes across with that wrist shot, top of the circles, through a screen. If it hits a goalie, it does; if it doesn’t, it’s in.”

Ovechkin, who is on pace for what would be a career-low 301 shots on goal, was asked about his low shot-totals and addressed Capitals’ struggles to put more pucks on opposing goaltenders as a whole. He also expressed frustration at the way the offense has fizzled.

“You can find some excuses but you can’t play like that,” said Ovechkin said of Washington’s lack of offensive pressure. “You can’t win the game with 14, 16 shots on net in the game, give all the attention to our goaltending.”

If there’s one opponent capable of bringing out the best in Ovechkin, and the Capitals in general, it’s the Penguins. The only catch is that Pittsburgh is quite familiar with those clad in red — especially Ovechkin — and the Pens know his habits.

“I don’t think he’s any different. I think that’s why his numbers went down,” Penguins defenseman Kris Letang said. “It’s always been the same. Always been the same move. Same spots on the ice. I think teams watch him through the years and kind of notice and pay attention to everything that he does.”