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Ovechkin: Caps have to play better

Sunday, 05.03.2009 / 3:30 PM / Conference Semifinals: Washington vs. Pittsburgh

By Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. -- After losing Game 1 to the New York Rangers, Washington left wing Alex Ovechkin was in great spirits the following day, saying if the Capitals played the same way as they did for most of that game they would win the series.

The morning after Game 1 against Pittsburgh, No. 8 was talking about just the opposite.

Even though Washington won Saturday, 3-2, Ovechkin did not seem at all pleased with the effort and knows his team has to be better starting in Game 2 Monday night if it is going to beat the Penguins and win a trip to the Eastern Conference Final.

"We didn't play our game I think all game," Ovechkin said. "We didn't play well all game. Yeah, we played sometimes good, especially in the first 10 minutes in the second period, but we have to play that same way every game. You can feel good or bad, but you have to say, 'OK, right now it's time to jump.' "

It was still a win in Game 1, though, and that at least had Ovechkin smiling Sunday as he spoke with the media. However, he knows all too well how such good fortune can be fleeting. He experienced it last season and saw the Rangers go through it this season.

"Last year we won first game against Philadelphia and we lost three games in a row, so right now we have to forget it," Ovechkin said. "It's done. (Monday) is going to be a different game, a different level. It's going to be a more interesting game for us. It's a more important game than the first game."

While there are things he would like to see his team do differently, Ovechkin also knows the Capitals did a lot well in Game 1. For instance, they gave up only six shots in killing off five penalties and managed to score a power-play goal on their only real advantage.

The Capitals were technically awarded two power plays, but their first advantage turned into a 5-on-3 after 61 seconds because Matt Cooke was called for hooking down Ovechkin at center ice 15 seconds after Ovechkin drove him into the boards.

Ovechkin, who scored the 5-on-3 goal after some nifty passing from Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin, believes the Capitals should have gotten more power-play chances.

"We scored one goal and they had only two penalties, but I think they could have had more," he said. "(Tyler) Kennedy broke (Viktor Kozlov's) stick and that was slashing and didn't get called. (Matt Bradley) was tripped and that was not called. It happens sometimes. The referees can't see everything."

Semin a big part
-- Alexander Semin doesn't speak with the North American media, so sometimes he gets overlooked. On Sunday, though, Ovechkin had a lot of praise for his Russian teammate, who entered the day tied with Evgeni Malkin and Ryan Getzlaf for the League lead in playoff points (10).

"He's a pretty good player, one of the leaders on the team and he doesn't talk to you guys, but he talks to us," Ovechkin said. "He's pretty skilled and he's playing very well right now. He's in good shape. If we don't play well, he plays well. He's a big part of the team."

To be young and naive -- Caps goalie Simeon Varlamov is the other of the Caps' five Russians that does not speak much English (more than Semin, though), and Ovechkin thinks the language barrier helps the 21-year-old in handling the pressure of the playoffs.
"He don't understand the attention," No. 8 said. "He thinks he knows what is going on, but I think it's good for him that he doesn't understand. He can't speak English right now and that's good for us. We have a goalie who can't speak English and can still play well."

Contact Dan Rosen at
Quote of the Day

I watched many times this year the series between the Russians and Canada in 1972, and he was a dominating player there. After I watched the tapes, I respect him a lot more because he turned the series around. He was the guy. In that time, he was the best in the world. It’s a big honor for me to tie him.

— Panthers forward Jaromir Jagr on scoring the 717th goal of his career to tie Phil Esposito for fifth on the NHL's all-time goals list after a 4-3 win vs. the Lightning on Sunday