Alex Ovechkin simply had to talk about the youngest of five Russians who dress for the Washington Capitals.WASHINGTON -- Even in a 3-2 win where he scored a picture-perfect, skilled goal,
The circus surrounds Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, but even the Caps' No. 8 knows 21-year-old rookie goalie Simeon Varlamov stole the show in Game 1 Saturday with his marvelous save on Crosby with 1:59 to play in the second period of a 2-2 game.
"He made lots of good saves, but that was pretty important and pretty cool," Ovechkin said when NHL.com asked him if that was the best save he has ever seen. "It was probably Top 10. No. 1. Highlight."
It was definitely the highlight of Game 1, but Ovechkin also gave the 18,277 red-clad fans at Verizon Center what they hoped to scream about.
Delivering on his superstar cred, Ovechkin scored a big goal for the Capitals with 2:57 to play in the first period. His 5-on-3 goal after nifty passing from Nicklas Backstrom (he's always in the middle of great passing) to Alexander Semin and eventually to Ovechkin gave Washington a 2-1 lead.
Sergei Gonchar (delay of game) and Matt Cooke (hooking Ovechkin) were in the penalty box when Ovechkin scored his goal. It was the only two penalties the Penguins were called for all afternoon.
"Both teams have skill guys, and especially on a 5-on-3 we have to score goals," said Ovechkin, who now has 4 goals and 4 assists in eight playoff games. "It was a great chance to get the lead and get the goal."
Backstrom sent the puck from the corner up to Semin, who was just below the Stanley Cup Playoffs logo. Semin wound up as the puck was coming to him from Backstrom, giving Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury an idea that he was going to shoot.
"I thought (Semin) was going to take the one-timer from up top," Fleury confirmed.
Instead, Semin slowed his wind up down and one-touched a pass to Ovechkin in the lower left circle. Fleury was out high above his crease and Penguins' penalty killer Craig Adams had his back to Ovechkin, so No. 8 easily deposited the puck into the empty net with no challenge from anyone on the ice.
"I like to play on the point but I switched positions with Sasha (Semin)," Ovechkin said. "It was probably an accident, but it worked. I was shocked actually when he gave me the puck. I almost missed the net."
Ovechkin finished Game 1 with the one goal on nine shots over a rather light 21:13 of ice time. He averaged about 23 minutes of ice time against the Rangers, including a playoff-high 28:47 in Game 4. He also had five shots blocked on Saturday afternoon and he missed the net three times, including hitting the post twice.
"On our side Varly (Varlamov) played well and on their side (Fleury) played well," Ovechkin said. "And, the posts played well."
Ovechkin also had two hits, two blocks and he won both of the faceoffs he took, including an in-zone draw against Evgeni Malkin with 2:06 to play in the game where he just whacked the puck right on Fleury. Mark Eaton blocked it, though.
Overall it was a highly effective game for the Capitals' superstar, but he was happy to get some help from his friends, including the third-line trio of David Steckel, Matt Bradley and Brooks Laich, who teamed up to tie the game at 1-1 with 6:10 to play in the first.
Steckel got the goal on a hard rush toward Fleury after the goalie left a rebound in front from Bradley's tough-angle shot from just above the goal line.
"They played great against New York and they scored a great-looking goal," Ovechkin said. "I don't think we played well in the first 10 minutes, but only one line played well and that was Steckel, Matt Bradley and Brooks Laich. They scored a goal, gave us life on the bench and we started moving our legs, forced some penalties and scored the second."
Pittsburgh made it 2-2 when Eaton's point shot found a way past Varlamov, who appeared to flub it with his glove. However, even though Crosby had a phenomenal chance at an open net, the Penguins never got the third, a fact that had Ovechkin raving. "It was huge, you know," Ovechkin said of Varlamov's ridiculous save on Crosby. "It was a 2-2 game…He made a mistake when they scored the second goal, but he made an unbelievable save there to give us a chance to win the game."
Contact Dan Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org