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Above is the front page of The Washington Post Sports section on Nov. 22, 2005, featuring a preview of the first-ever game between Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby. An excerpt from Tarik El-Bashir’s story:

Washington Capitals majority owner Ted Leonsis repeatedly has said he hopes Crosby and Ovechkin do for the NHL what Magic Johnson and Larry Bird did for the NBA in the 1980s. It’s a lot to ask of players not two months into their first seasons, and Crosby and Ovechkin did their best to play down the game’s significance in interviews yesterday.

“I can’t speak for both of us,” Crosby said. “But for me, I’ve played [21] games in the NHL. I think I have a long ways to go before I can compare myself to guys like that. I’m sure he thinks the same way. We’re having fun playing in the NHL, but we have a long ways to go before we get to a matchup like that.”

Ovechkin said: “It’s just a game, but everybody is speaking about me and Sidney and like comparisons of me and him. I think that we must play hard, me and him, and play as a team and win the game.”

Let’s fast forward almost exactly eight years later. Here’s today’s front page, featuring a preview of tonight’s 33rd matchup between the two players.

An excerpt from Katie Carrera’s story:

“I think that regardless of where we are, I think that everybody always watches these games. There’s a lot of eyes on them. We know that it brings out the best in both teams, and, I think, both players,” Crosby told the Canadian Press. “I think that we get up for these ones and, as a player, it’s just kind of a natural thing when you know the stage is a little bit bigger, you get up for it.”

Said Ovechkin, who is tied for the league lead in goals with 17: “It’s always fun to play against a great team, against great players. And right now we’re going to meet them often. It’s going to be pretty cool.”

The Capitals and Penguins aren’t the only ones who benefit from their captains playing at elite levels.

“Those two guys are more Gretz versus Mario. They’re the superstars of the league,” Capitals Coach Adam Oates said. “I would hope that as a fan, you do appreciate that. You’ve got two of the best guys in the world playing against each other; it just makes for a little bit more of an electric game.”

Alright, fine. Maaayyybe we need a new storyline after all.

Also, if you’re up for another trip down memory lane, here’s the game story from that first matchup in 2005.