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Round 2
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Stanley Cup Final

Ovechkin's physical play gives Caps a spark in 4-2 win

Tuesday, 10.27.2009 / 11:51 PM / NHL Insider

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

WASHINGTON -- Alex Ovechkin called his second-period goal "lucky." The Capitals' superstar also said his mini-skirmish by the penalty boxes with Mike Richards and Scott Hartnell earlier in the period was "just a game moment."

He clearly didn't want to take too much credit away from the sterling performance put in by goalie Jose Theodore (41 saves) on Tuesday night or the solid effort from linemates Alexander Semin (thre points) and Nicklas Backstrom (four points), but when the Capitals needed a lift, wouldn't you know, No. 8 was there to give it to them.

That it happened against the Flyers is only fitting, considering Ovi admits they are one of his favorite teams to play. He has 18 goals in 18 regular-season games against the Flyers, his highest goals-per-game average against any Eastern Conference opponent.

"Since it's kind of a rivalry against the fans," said Ovechkin, who finished with two goals, a plus-3 rating, five hits and five shots in Tuesday's 4-2 win. "When we go to the road it's a great place to play. The fans are crazy there and the same like here. I love to play against Philly. They're a good team and it's a big challenge for me and my teammates."

Ovechkin, who had two goals and an assist in the first meeting against the Flyers this season, again rose to the challenge.

Down 1-0 midway through the second period, he put a good lick on Richards and then got pounced on by Hartnell. Play resumed without much fanfare other than a loud cheer from the fans -- but getting physical also appeared to get Ovechkin into the game.

(WATCH THE PLAY)

With the Caps trailing 2-0 roughly five minutes later, Ovechkin took a pretty pass from Nicklas Backstrom, who made an even prettier play juggling the puck on his stick to settle it, and ripped a shot into the far corner of the net for his 10th of the season.

He later scored an empty-net goal to retake the NHL's scoring lead with 11 in 11 games. It took him 20 games to get goal No. 11 last season.

"When they scored two goals, we wake up and play more physical and more aggressive," Ovechkin said.

It was Ovechkin's physical play on Richards and eventually Hartnell that seemed to jump-start the Caps. Even though they failed to score on a 5-on-3 shortly after and then gave up a power-play goal to Braydon Coburn, they seemed energized after the hitting.

"I kind of saw that it got everybody going," Theodore said, "and it just seemed that we had that extra effort after that and we wanted to win so bad."

Added Ovechkin: "We had an opportunity to beat them because after 2-0 we didn't give up and we pushed harder to win the game."

As usual, No. 8 got it started, but he won't tell you that.

"Everybody wake up when they score the second goal," Ovechkin said. "We dig deep."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com




I didn't think it would actually work, but it ended up working, so I'm thanking my lucky stars tonight.

— Columbus forward Nick Foligno on scoring the overtime goal after telling the Blue Jackets in the locker room that he would win the game