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Ovechkin watches as Caps lose to Devils

Wednesday, 11.04.2009 / 11:35 PM / NHL Insider

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- It didn't take long for Devils goalie Martin Brodeur's to notice the difference not having Alex Ovechkin on the ice made.

Brodeur made 26 saves in Wednesday's 3-2 victory over the Ovechkin-less Washington Capitals and said afterwards he could sense the difference in the game right from the opening faceoff -- which Ovechkin watched in a finely pressed suit from up in the press box due to his upper-body strain.

Not that he objected to seeing Ovechkin in a suit rather than a white-and-red Caps jersey.

"It's the excitement level that he brings and the energy that he brings to the table that wasn't there," Brodeur said. "Usually when Ovechkin is carrying the puck, it doesn't matter what building he plays in, everybody is looking for him to do something spectacular and it's tough to play when you have to look at him all the time and wonder what is he going to do next? It's tough for everybody because he's such a good player. So not having him, we'll take it. We dodged one bullet."

Ovechkin watched with fellow scratches Eric Fehr and Brian Pothier as his team tried to play a patient and controlled game without him. The Capitals did just that for 50 minutes, but they came undone in the last 10 and committed three penalties that led to two decisive power-play goals by New Jersey rookie Niclas Bergfors.

The Caps said Ovechkin wouldn't do any interviews with print or online media in the press box, but after he finished a between-periods interview with Joe Beninati on Washington's local TV broadcast, No. 8 smiled as he said, "Soon you are going to see me again, soon."

Whether that means this weekend -- the Caps play at Florida on Friday and at home against the Panthers on Saturday -- we don't know. However, if Florida is anything like the Devils, they'll appreciate it if he waits until after the weekend to return.

"Maybe it changed the game a bit because you know how this guy plays," Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said. "I don't think we would have played good enough to beat them if this guy would have been in and playing at his best."

The Capitals didn't get much of a chance to prove themselves on the power play without Ovechkin as the Devils committed just one minor penalty. Washington, though, appeared somewhat disjointed with Mike Green taking Ovi's spot on the left point and Tom Poti manning Green's spot on the right point.

They managed one shot during the two-minute advantage.

"They still have the same identity and they still like to forecheck and make plays, but it obviously makes a difference when you take a guy like that out of your lineup," Devils center Travis Zajac told NHL.com.

The Caps aren't blaming Wednesday's loss -- their fourth in five games without Ovechkin since 2005 -- on the fact that No. 8 wasn't in the lineup.

"We came in patient, but when you take three penalties with 10 minutes to go in the game it's tough to win the game," Brendan Morrison told NHL.com.

Coach Bruce Boudreau was especially upset at the top guys and how they not only failed to contribute in Ovechkin's absence, but they also handed the Devils the chances to win the game by committing needless penalties in the offensive zone.

Washington was called for five minor penalties, four of which came in the offensive zone, including the last three over the final 8:59. Alexander Semin was in the box three times and Mike Knuble and Morrison each went once.

"Guys didn't come to play," Boudreau said. "Whether they were feeling sorry for themselves because Alex wasn't in -- I don't know. Same thing happened last year when we went into Buffalo and got smoked 5-0 when he wasn't there.

"This isn't a one man team, but those guys have got to understand that. People can get hurt at any moment."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com




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