Washington Capitals left winger Alex Ovechkin skated with the puck into the offensive zone, set up on a 2-on-1 with teammate Alex Semin. Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Tim Gleason read the situation and played the two-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner to shoot, and tried to cut him off.
But instead of shooting, Ovechkin looked to his teammate; he deked around Gleason and found Semin wide-open on the other side for an easy goal.
The play was a prime example of how Ovechkin has shifted from a goal scorer to a playmaker this season, and Sunday night his improved all-around play was a big factor in the Capitals taking down the Hurricanes in a shootout, 3-2.
“It is something new,” Ovechkin said. “Probably it is not my time [to score] right now. I think I had great chances to score goals and didn’t score but most important games are in the future. It is not frustration. I have the chances. If I didn’t have the chances, that would be frustrating.”
It looked as though the Caps would be frustrated when Eric Staal tied the game with just three seconds remaining – especially considering the Caps threw 40 shots at Carolina goaltender Cam Ward but had only two goals to show for it.
“I think he [Cam Ward] played a tremendous game today,” Ovechkin said. “I think we dominated them almost all game, but he played unbelievable.”
Ward was excellent all night, and he was matched by his counterpart Semyon Varlamov, who had 26 saves, including one from point-blank in overtime that head coach Bruce Boudreau called a “game saver.”
But as the two teams headed to a shootout, it was Ovechkin and linemate Nicklas Backstrom who beat Ward to ensure the Caps got the win and the two points. The victory extended their winning streak to 3 games, a stark contrast to their ugly 3-game losing streak immediately before.
“It was a tough week, a lot of games,” defenseman John Carlson said. “But we felt that we played pretty good, so [we’ll] get a good recovery day tomorrow and get back after it and have a good week next week.”
The Capitals next head to St. Louis on Wednesday night and Ovechkin hopes to get back in the goal column – his last eight points have all been assists. He’s drawing more attention this year, but so far, he’s using his passing ability to make teams pay for double-teams.
“I think teams are more on him this year,” Backstrom said. “There are two guys on him all the time and it makes it a little tough for him. It doesn’t matter, we win hockey games. I don’t think he cares, either, as long as we win, he’s happy. He’s a great passer, too.”