It’s no secret that Alex Ovechkin has struggled scoring goals this season – especially those of the highlight variety. Saturday night, though, Ovechkin had what some would consider a “classic” Ovechkin goal.
Ovechkin took a long pass and beat Florida Panthers goaltender Scott Clemmensen as he was falling to the ice to give the Capitals the goal that would prove to be the game winner in a 3-2 win.
Head coach Bruce Boudreau said that he hope’s Ovechkin’s goal is “a sign of things to come,” and while the season-long slump has been hard on Ovechkin, he also hopes tonight can get him going in the second half.
“I always took it to heart,” said Ovechkin. “My numbers are not that good or where they’re supposed to be. But it’s the middle of the season and there are 40 games left. We’ll see what’s going to happen at the end of the year.”
Luckily for the Caps – and Ovechkin – the secondary players have stepped up in recent weeks to carry the load, and most recently winger Eric Fehr has provided a scoring touch. Saturday night, he scored the Capitals’ first goal from defenseman Mike Green and then returned the favor in the third period as he set up Green for a powerplay goal.
“I’m feeling pretty good right now, Fehr said. “I want the puck, and that’s always a good sign.”
Added Boudreau: “He’s getting more confidence. He’s a guy that lives in confidence and he’s playing a little bit more. He started scoring a lot of his goals in the middle to latter half of the year last year too, so maybe he’s a naturally slow starter?”
The game, from start to finish, was a sloppy one – numerous missed passes, poor decisions, lazy fore checking – but the Capitals finally did strike on the power play and generated some chances in the third period. The key, Fehr said, is to stay patient with their new trap-style approach and wait for their chances.
“With the way we’re playing right now, we’ve got to stay patient,” noted Fehr. “We have to play defensively and make sure we’re not giving them any odd-man rushes or easy opportunities.”
The Caps, however, gave up some scoring chances, and even with a 3-1 lead late in the third period, had a defensive breakdown that led to a goal and some frantic moments as time wound down.
In the end, though, the Ovechkin’s goal – eerily reminiscent of his goal against Montreal two seasons ago – was enough for Washington.
“[Washington’s] a team that if you make a mistake, they make you pay,” Florida coach Peter DeBoer said.”[The Capitals] have those types of players. You see the guys that scored the [last two] goals in the third [period], [Mike] Green and [Alex] Ovechkin. That’s the story. Those are game-changing players and they delivered in the third [period] when they needed to.”
The Panthers hung in there with the Capitals, and even at the tail end of a back-to-back and a tough stretch, gave the Caps everything they had.
“They played hard,” Fehr said. “They’re one of the fastest skating teams we play all season. They played really well and they didn’t want to give us a whole lot and we had to earn the win.”