Photo: Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images
Alex Ovechkin has had numerous memorable moments throughout his career, but none may be more significant than what he did on Tuesday night in Pittsburgh during Game 3 of the Washington Capitals second round series with the Pittsburgh Penguins. As the clock dwindled down with the score tied at three, Nicklas Backstrom intercepted a pass and raced down the ice with the puck on a 2-on-1 rush.
Backstrom dished it to Ovechkin who ripped a shot towards goalie Matt Murray. As the puck deflected off the post and Murray lost sight of it, Ovechkin finished the job by tapping the flying puck into the goal to give the Capitals a 4-3 lead with 1:07 remaining.
After the goal Ovechkin headed straight towards the glass, ignoring a stick slash from Kris Letang. With a group of Penguins fans flipping the bird at him in unsportsmanlike fashion Ovechkin turned around and yelled out a roar that could be heard from Pittsburgh all the way to the DMV.
“I hit the post and I thought it goes in. It’s a good thing I raised my hands up and finished off the play,” Ovechkin told Pierre McGuire of NBC Sports after the game.
“Usually he’s flying there, whether it’s a 2-on-1 or a breakaway so he did a good job of sticking with it. Huge win, we’ll take it,” added Backstrom.
Pittsburgh has never been a kind environment for the Capitals, especially in the playoffs. Whether the games were at the old Mellon Arena or PPG Paints Arena, both venues have been a house of horrors. Entering Game 3 Tuesday night, the Capitals carried a 10-20 record all-time in Pittsburgh during the playoffs. In the Ovechkin-Crosby era, the Capitals were 3-6 until winning what was arguably their biggest game to date.
“Every game against Pittsburgh is a battle. It’s a huge game. They’re three-time Stanley Cup champions and they know how to play. If it’s hard, they know how to react. It’s a challenge but great commitment from our team and a huge win,” added Ovechkin.
Ovechkin’s game-winning goal was his seventh in the playoffs, passing Peter Bondra, Jason Chimera and Backstrom all alone in first place on the all-time list. Ovechkin is still searching for his first career playoff overtime goal but that drought will not take away what he did in Pittsburgh Tuesday night.
“It’s a big win. It was tough sledding out there tonight. It was a physical game,” said Matt Niskanen, who scored the game-tying goal earlier in the third period. “We battled hard and showed a lot of character to come back in the third and finding a way to win there at the end. Guys played hard. We earned that one.”
The Penguins entered Game 3 angry and they’ll be even angrier in Game 4 with their team down 2-1 in the series and not being used to the hand that they’ve been dealt in this second round. The Caps once again gutted out a win, which is now their ninth consecutive road win. Dating back to last year’s playoffs, the Capitals have won five connective playoff games away from Capital One Arena.
“It was a real tough game for both teams and we accomplished what we wanted to and now we’ll enjoy it for a couple minutes and focus on Game 4,” said Braden Holtby.
“I think this group has learned to not to look too far ahead, not to get too comfortable,” added Trotz. “We’ve had to work hard… This group continues to forge a little bit of an identity. I think we’ve got some confidence in our group, confidence in each other, and trust in each other and they’re playing for keeps.”
By Michael Marzzacco