After returning to the Washington Capitals’ lineup in typical fashion on January 30, 2021, Alex Ovechkin’s propensity for scoring goals was on full display over a decade ago today in a contest against the Montreal Canadiens. In this Retro Recap, NoVa Caps’ Diane Doyle takes a look back on Ovechkin’s big night.
Just two days earlier, the Capitals dropped a 4-0 contest to the Canadiens in Montreal and would were missing center Michael Nylander (who was already out for the season due to a torn rotator cuff), right wing Chris Clark (groin injury), and defenseman Brian Pothier (concussion). Then-Head Coach Bruce Boudreau announced that both Clark and Pothier would be out long-term. Defenseman Shaone Morrisonn had missed two games with a bruised foot and the Caps were hoping he could return to the lineup in time for their following game hosting the Habs at Verizon Center (now Capital One Arena) as he was able to practice the day before, but the blueliner ultimately did not play.
The Capitals record heading into their second game against Montreal was 23-23-5 and were 8-4-0 for the month of January; at the time, they had yet to lose two consecutive games in regulation during the month. Montreal, meanwhile, held a 27-15-8 record under then-Head Coach Guy Carbonneau. The goaltending matchup for the game saw the Capitals’ Olie Kolzig against Cristobal Huet in Montreal’s crease (Huet would later join the Capitals at the trade deadline). The game’s Saku Koivu was playing in his 700th career NHL game.
The Capitals came out of the gate angry and aggressive on the ice as they were unhappy with Montreal for trying to score late in their game from two days prior, despite a four-goal lead. The team was all over the ice and had the game’s first seven shots. 55 seconds into the game, Montreal forward Alexei Kovalev lost his balance and threw his stick up, which hit Ovechkin in the nose and sent the Capitals’ star to the ice. Ovechkin needed attention from the training staff and Kovalev was sent to the penalty box for an early Washington power play. After being treated by the training staff on the bench, Ovechkin was able to take the ice for the power play and laid an open ice hit on Canadiens forward Steve Begin, who was on the penalty kill duty for Montreal, who successfully killed off the man-advantage. Throughout the first six minutes of the game, the Caps had several chances but Huet made some great saves to deny the home team a goal. The Capitals took a penalty at: 6:47 when Donald Brashear was penalized for roughing, but successfully killed off the minor.
At 12:33, Begin sent the puck over the glass and earned the Canadiens a Delay of Game penalty, putting the Capitals on the power play. The power play lasted just 11 seconds as Alexander Semin took a hooking penalty, which set up an extended 4-on-4 situation. About 15 seconds into the 4-on-4, Ovechkin passed to defenseman Milan Jurcina, who was at the point. Jurcina sent the pass back across to Ovechkin, who rifled a one-timer past Huet for his 40th goal of the season. The Capitals’ one-goal lead theld up through the end of the period and into the first intermission.
4:35 into the second period, the Capitals scored their second goal of the game. Defenseman Tom Poti passed to Ovechkin and veteran forward Viktor Kozlov scored on the deflection, his 10th goal of the season. Around eight minutes into the period, Ovechkin added his second goal of the game to increase the team’s lead to 3-0 on assists from Kozlov and Nicklas Backstrom. 50 seconds later, the Habs’ Sergei Kostitsyn scored for Montreal on assists from Guillaume Latendresse and Maxim Lapierre. Just over seven minutes later, with Washington defenseman Mike Green in the penalty box for tripping, Andrei Kostitsyn scored his 15th goal of the season in the very last second of the second period. The goals by the Kostitsyn brothers marked the first set of siblings to score goals in the same game for the Canadiens since 1974. The score was 3-2 going into second intermission.
The first half of the final frame was rather uneventful, until at 12:30, when Green got the puck and passed to Kozlov, who broke out of the defensive zone with Ovechkin, and skated towards the goal, Kozlov passed to Ovechkin, who shot a hard wrist shot that went under the legs of a defenseman and into the top corner of the net for Ovechkin’s third goal to complete the hat trick and put the Caps ahead 4-2. Latendresse scored just over a minute later, getting assists from Sergei Kostitsyn and Mike Komisarek to close the gap to 4-3. Latendresse scored again with just 33 seconds to go in regulation, potting a goal during a goal-mouth scramble in a 6-on-5 situation as the Canadiens had pulled Huet in favor of an extra attacker.
The large majority of the overtime period was quiet, until at the 3:34 mark, when Ovechkin corralled the puck and skated down the wing along with Backstrom, losing his balance in the process. Backstrom retrieved the puck and passed to Green, who passed to fellow defenseman Jeff Schultz, who shot the puck on net. Ovechkin then knocked in the rebound to score his fourth goal of the game for the game-winning fifth.
After the game, Ovechkin said with a smile, “Today was a special day. I broke my nose, have stitches (and) score four goals. Everything (went) to my face.” He had broken his nose earlier when Francis Bouillon sent him into the boards. The hat trick was Ovechkin’s fourth career hat trick and his first one at home. At the time, he was already leading the NHL in goals and now had 43 goals, as well as 70 points to take over the league lead. This was the first time he had ever led the league in points and was also his third consecutive year of scoring 40 or more goals. It was the first time any Capital had scored 40 goals in three consecutive years since Peter Bondra had accomplished the feat.
Boudreau commented, “We scored five, and he was in on all five [four goals and one assist]. So, how can you say enough about him? He’s an amazing person.”
Viktor Kozlov, Ovechkin’s linemate, said, “The way Ovi scored the goals today, he’s pretty amazing. Alex’s game is excellent, excellent. Hitting people, passing, scoring. I don’t know what else forwards could do.”
Since Boudreau had taken over the Caps on November 22 earlier in the season, the Caps had not lost two consecutive games in regulation.
By Diane Doyle
Hockey Reference Box Score of Game
Washington Post: Looking Back at All 19 of Ovechkin’s OT Goals
Sports Illustrated: Ovechkin’s 4th Goal of Game Lifts Capitals to 5-4 Overtime Win OverCanadiens
CBC: Ovechkin Batters Habs For 4 Goals
NHL: Battered Alex Ovechkin Scores 4 Goals Adds Assist in Capitals 5-4 OT Win-Over Canadiens