We’ve heard it ever since he arrived in the Nation’s Capital. “Alex Ovechkin doesn’t play defense!” And while he’s done his fair share of gliding around the ice in his 17-year career in the NHL, no one can argue Ovechkin’s commitment to the game, defensively, when it counts.
Ovechkin’s defense was the spark that led to the Capitals three-goal third period rally in Game 1 on Tuesday night.
Trailing 2-1 in the third period, Ovechkin stepped up and stymied Panthers’ defenseman Mackenzie Weegar at the Panthers’ blue line. The captain’s poke-check led to a breakaway opportunity for linemate Evgeny Kuznetsov, who buried the chance to tie the game, 2-2. It was Kuznetsov’s 28th career playoff goal and fourth career playoff goal scored on Sergei Bobrovsky.
“We believe [in] ourselves,” Kuznetsov said. “This game of course could give us lot of positives. … We have a veteran group of guys and we have great coaches — they’re going to make adjustments and they’re going to say right words. We know it’s going to be long series and it’s going to be hard every game.”
Just 2:23 after the Ovechkin theft and Kuznetsov goal, T.J. Oshie leaped behind the Panthers defense and directed a Nicklas Backstrom pass, that was delivered between a Panthers’ defenseman’s legs, for what became the game-winner.
“Typically Nicky fashion, sauced it through a guy’s legs and right on my tape,” Oshie said. “I just redirected. Didn’t see it go in, so he had to come tell me that we scored. It’s always nice to get that go-ahead goal.”
The job has just begun for the Capitals, who will look to take a 2-0 series lead Thursday night before the series moves to the District and Capital One Arena for games 3 and 4 on Saturday and Monday.
“It’s one game,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “Our guys played hard tonight. We’ve got to regroup tomorrow and get back to work.”
By Jon Sorensen