Thus, they were, are and always will be intertwined. People in Pittsburgh might scoff at that notion, because Crosby has won three Stanley Cups and Ovechkin has, of course, none. But it’s reasonable for people in Washington to point out that, hey, each of those Cup runs came through the Capitals, and darned if it doesn’t feel like if the Caps had won Game 7 in either 2009 or last year, maybe Ovi would have a Cup or two.
So here they are again, meeting for the third straight time — and fourth time overall — in the second round of the playoffs. Time to make more memories — and reflect on the top moments in the history of the docudrama, “Ovi and Sid.”
5. “Snovechkin”: The winter of 2010 brought with it the best Capitals team to date, the first Presidents’ Trophy winner, an offensive juggernaut that included Mike Green and Alexander Semin. Feb. 7 brought a tremendous amount of anticipation, because that streaking unit — winners of 13 straight to that point — would welcome Crosby and the Penguins to what was then Verizon Center. What also came: snow. Lots of it. More than 20 inches. The Penguins were coming from Montreal, so they flew to Newark and bused the rest of the way — arriving after 2 a.m. for a noon start. Still, the game went on, and a sellout crowd made its way downtown. Crosby scored twice in the first period to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead. But Ovechkin countered with the first goal of the second, and with the Caps down 4-2 in the third, he scored twice more — his 41st and 42nd goals of the season in just Washington’s 59th game — to force overtime. There, he got the primary assist on Mike Knuble’s game-winner, and the Capitals had their 14th straight victory, 5-4 over Pittsburgh.
4. 2017 all-star bro-fest: By the time of last year’s All-Star Game in Los Angeles, the two stars had accumulated five Hart Trophies (three for Ovechkin, two for Crosby), but had mostly public animosity between them. (See the February 2009 bench-side scuffle in which Crosby pushed Ovechkin from behind and Ovechkin ripped Crosby’s helmet off in return.) But in this event, they were paired as teammates on the Metropolitan Division side, and then Coach Wayne Gretzky put them on the same line. They combined on a goal. They won the mini-tournament. They laughed together. So had they become buddies? “Yeah, best friends,” Ovechkin told reporters afterward. “How I always said.” Wink implied.
3. The Caps and Crosby’s head: The Ovechkin-Crosby rivalry was still on the upswing when Washington and Pittsburgh were matched against each other in the 2011 Winter Classic, played at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field. At the end of the second period of what became a 3-1 Capitals victory, then-Washington forward David Steckel blindsided Crosby as he headed up ice. The hit left Crosby doubled over. He later was diagnosed with a concussion, and not only would he play just once more that season, but he was limited to 58 games over the next two seasons. That put extra sensitivity around an incident in Game 3 of last year’s second-round playoff series when Crosby skated across the crease and collided in some fashion with Ovechkin, starting a tumble. By the time Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen, Crosby’s former teammate in Pittsburgh, also collided with Crosby, the Penguins captain was writhing on the ice.
2. 2010 Winter Olympics: Ovechkin and Crosby both participated in the 2004 world junior championships before they entered the NHL, but their teams never faced each other, and somehow people forget that Ovechkin’s Russian team beat the Canadians, 2-0, in the quarterfinals of the 2006 Winter Olympics, a game in which Ovechkin scored, but in which Crosby did not play because he was left off the Olympic roster. The apex of their international rivalry was certainly the 2010 Vancouver Games, when there was an inordinate amount of pressure on the host Canadians. Canada got off to a shaky start and was forced to advance through the qualification playoffs to earn a spot against Russia in the quarterfinals. Though Crosby didn’t score, he and Canada embarrassed the Russians in a 7-3 victory that ended Ovechkin’s bid for an Olympic medal — and led to criticism of him from his home country. Canada went on to beat Slovakia in the semis, and — with his entire nation watching and worrying — who scored the overtime winner in the gold medal game against the U.S.? None other than Crosby.
1. Dueling hat tricks, 2009: When the Capitals and Penguins met in the playoffs for the first time in the Ovechkin-Crosby era, there was the requisite hype — and then they exceeded it. Each scored once in Washington’s Game 1 victory. But then came the fireworks in Game 2, when there were seven total goals — with Crosby and Ovechkin responsible for six of them. Ovechkin’s third goal in the third period put the Caps up 4-2, led to the requisite shower of hats from the Verizon Center stands, and eventually got Crosby to skate over to the officials — infamously, in the minds of Caps fans. “I was just asking if he could make an announcement to ask them to stop,” Crosby said that night. “I mean, the first wave came, and then I think they were all pretty much picked up, and then more started coming.” Thus, the tone was set for Washington fans to forever think of Crosby as a whiner. And when the Penguins eventually took the series in seven games, Pittsburgh fans could begin their cry that Ovechkin has never, ever, ousted Crosby from the playoffs.