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Ovi scores, hits and wins in his return from injury

Tuesday, 11.17.2009 / 11:40 PM / NHL Insider

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

"It's always nice when you get hurt and you come back and you score in the first period on your first shot," Ovechkin said. "You feel pretty good about yourself. After that I feel pretty cool. I was not afraid to take some hits and go battle." -- Alex Ovechkin

NEW YORK -- Alex Ovechkin got what he wanted Tuesday night. He scored a goal and helped the Washington Capitals pick up two points on one of the greatest stages in all of sports.

The Capitals' superstar returned in style in Washington's 4-2 win over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden after sitting out the previous six games with an upper-body strain suffered Nov. 1 against Columbus.

Ovechkin had only one shot, but he made it count, sending a scorching one-timer high into the net 15:06 into the game. The puck sent Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist's water bottle flying. Ovechkin was credited with seven hits and one takeaway in 19:23 of ice time.

"He picked up from where he left off," said Capitals wing Matt Bradley, who scored the game-winning goal with 4:51 to play. "He's the best player in the world, and it doesn't look like he missed a beat and that's pretty amazing."

Ovechkin admitted he was a little timid on his first couple of shifts. In fact, on his first shift Marian Gaborik scored to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. Ovechkin, though, was away from the play.

"Of course first couple of shifts I was kind of afraid to make some hits and go to the battle areas to control the puck," Ovechkin said.

However, at around the 8:45 mark of the first period he put a good hit on Gaborik in the defensive zone, stealing the puck in the process, and less than four minutes later got a good lick on defenseman Marc Staal in the offensive zone.

"I just feel good," Ovechkin said. "It didn't disturb me and I feel I was ready to go, 100 percent."

Roughly three minutes after hitting Staal, he scored his goal, one-timing a Mike Green pass from about 45 feet.

"It's always nice when you get hurt and you come back and you score in the first period on your first shot," Ovechkin said. "You feel pretty good about yourself. After that I feel pretty cool. I was not afraid to take some hits and go battle."

Ovechkin was on the point of that power play because Brendan Morrison had just come off after a long shift and was winded. He returned to the slot on the Capitals' next two power plays and didn't register a shot, but had some chances and also started the play that led to Brooks Laich's go-ahead power-play goal 15:44 into the second period.

Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said he will keep Ovechkin in the slot because he thinks he can be dangerous from there and the Capitals are better off defensively with Morrison up top.

"That shift was pretty exciting," Boudreau said, referring to the shorthanded chance the Rangers got before Ovechkin scored. "But he commands so much attention when he's playing up front, and if you have the ability to move him up and back it makes it difficult for other teams to cover him."

Ovechkin said it felt "unbelievable" to be back playing after watching the last six games. In assessing his star's play, Boudreau said he thought Ovechkin "was good for a first game."

"He had seven hits. He didn't exactly ease his way into the lineup," Boudreau said. "He had chances for a couple more plays and was the third man on the assist on Brooks' goal. More important than that, when he's out there he commands so much attention from everybody else so it gives other people a chance to get open."

The Rangers certainly knew he was out there.

"You saw a couple times during the game what kind of player he is," Lundqvist said. "He's really physical and played well. I still think when (he's on top of his game he'll) have more puck. But he still hurt us with the one power-play goal, so I can't say too much."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com



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