MONTREAL — For a moment, Alex Ovechkin was no different than everyone applauding in the Bell Centre stands. Montreal has always been one of his favorite places to play. He scored his first goal here 13 years ago to the day, and with two goals already next to his name in the box score Monday, he was on the precipice of a poetic hat trick and a game-winning goal when Canadiens goaltender Carey Price showed why so many consider him the best at his position.
With the game tied, Ovechkin snapped a shot off with two seconds left in regulation, and Price acrobatically slid to stop it with just the nob of his stick. The crowd appreciatively roared, and Ovechkin found himself admiring Price, too. He exhaled, then clapped his gloved hands before giving Price a low-five in acknowledgment, a rare show of mutual respect between two titans of the sport.
“It was a pretty cool moment, a pretty beautiful save,” Ovechkin said. “The fans were cheering for him, and I was kind of the same.”
The Canadiens faithful might have been applauding Ovechkin’s efforts, too. With the Capitals in a two-goal hole early in the second period, his power play one-timer from the left faceoff circle at the start of the third period tied the game. It was his second goal of the night and his 15th of the season. After he’d recorded just one shot (a goal) in the first 40 minutes of the game, he had four in the third period alone. After allowing Ovechkin’s power-play goal, Price made three saves to deny him the hat trick and keep the game at 4-4.
“He’s had my number for a while, so it was nice to get him back once,” Price said.
Indeed, no one has scored more goals on Price than Ovechkin, who has 622 goals for his career with 31 of them coming in 47 games against the Canadiens. Price has an impressive résumé of his own, winning a Vezina Trophy as the top goaltender and the league MVP award in 2015. Washington center Lars Eller, who scored the overtime game-winner Monday night, has been a teammate of both players — he was with the Canadiens for six seasons before Washington — and he said Price’s late-game save “was definitely up there” with some of his best.
“With the situation and with the time left, that’s what he is. He’s a difference-maker,” Eller said of Price. “That’s the level he’s capable of, pulling off stuff like that. You’ve just got to tip your hat. I’m not surprised because I’ve seen him do it before. He’s just that good.”
Said Ovechkin: “Mentally, he’s very strong. It doesn’t matter if he give up one goal or two goals, he just play the same way.”
While Price is often steady and stoic in games, Ovechkin’s reactions are often uninhibited, creating great theater for fans. As Price delivered the highlight with his save at the end of regulation, Ovechkin’s unabashed appreciation of the play made the moment even more captivating.
“It’s stars like that who put on performances like they both did tonight just make it worth every dime that it costs to come to the game and worth the price of admission tonight for certain with those two,” Capitals Coach Todd Reirden said.
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