When Alex Ovechkin lined up against Sidney Crosby earlier this week, the hockey world looked on with mouths agape. Could two players that were so young really be expected to try and live up to such lofty expectations?
Apparently these two can.
Ovie and Sid both played well in their head-to-head encounter between the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this week, though they were both perhaps outshined by Evgeni Malkin. Since then, Alex and Sid seem to have found yet another gear and have amazingly stepped up their games even further. Sid scored an amazing six points on Thursday to take the league scoring lead, and added another four Friday night to give him twelve points in his last three games. There isn't a hotter player in the league right now than Sid the Kid.
But Ovechkin really proved his salt last night against the Thrashers as well. The Capitals wrestled a tough overtime victory away from their division rivals in Atlanta, and Alex led the way with three goals. It wasn't just the fact that he scored three out of three goals for Washington in their 3-2 victory that made the night special, it was the dramatic flare with which he notched just his second career hat trick..
Down 2-1 with just over thirty seconds to go, Ovie first drew the Capitals even. He stepped away from coverage in front of the net, found a pocket in the slot that only goal scorers seem to be able to find, and took a nice soft pass from Dainius Zubrus. He fired a one-timer, short-side past Kari Lehtonen for his second goal of the night, and to earn a 2-2 result at the end of regulation time.
Then came the overtime goal, which was just something to marvel at.
The referee dropped the puck to start overtime and it was as if time stood still for everyone on the ice but Ovechkin. Ovie had lined up on the left wing and he broke around his man as the puck sat at the two centers' feet. The Thrashers' center Bobby Holik tried to play the puck back to his defense, but Alex had anticipated the puck going there, and picked up the puck between Holik and the defense. Alex broke into the zone as the defenseman backed off, and fired a quick wrist shot from the top of the circle to again beat Lehtonen short-side.
It took just six seconds of overtime, and Alexander the Great had stolen the points for the Caps and before the Thrashers could say, "what just happened?"
A jubilant Washington team leapt to the ice to shower their young phenom with deserved praise and to celebrate their first victory over the Thrashers in their last five attempts. Ovie's teammates may be the only people in Washington who truly understand how special of a hockey player this kid really is.
The three goals gave him 21 on the season, good for third overall in scoring. The win, still leaves the Caps seven points behind Atlanta in the division standings, but they do have two games in hand. Washington is now 6-1-1 over their last eight games, and have 35 points through 31 games. At 14-10-7, they are well ahead of last year's pace when they didn't earn their fourteenth victory until mid-January (game 43).
No time to rest on the laurels of a tough victory, as tonight the Caps face off against the Flyers at the Verizon Center. Game time is 7pm.