PITTSBURGH -- While some cried foul at Alex Ovechkin's disallowed goal in the third period of Saturday night's game, the Washington Capitals' captain just kept smiling.
Nothing at that point was going to ruin his night in the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Heinz Field.
"It was one of the best experiences of my life," Ovechkin said, sitting in a dry press conference room after a 3-1 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins. "It's unbelievable."
Ovechkin had such a blast Saturday night that as he walked down the rubber matting toward the stairs leading to the Capitals' dressing room, he waved at fans and pumped his fists. He did the same thing -- albeit prematurely -- as the final seconds ticked off the scoreboard clock.
Ovechkin had his hands in the air thinking the game was complete, but the clock stopped with 0.6 seconds left when the Penguins and Capitals tangled near the south goal. He got into a little shoving match with Pittsburgh forward Chris Kunitz, but once those sixth-tenths of a second was gone, he was right smack dab in the middle of the celebration.
"You can see and you can hear when we score goals how many people were fans of Washington," Ovechkin said, still smiling. "I can see a thousand people in one spot, a thousand people upstairs -- it was really unbelievable. When it was the national anthem, they were screaming. It was unbelievable."
Ovechkin went without a point Saturday in what really was a showcase game for him and his Capitals.
He didn't seem bothered one bit to be held off the score sheet.
"He's a team player," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "If you've watched the HBO stuff, every time we score he's the first guy on the ice cheering and he's happy for the team. Today was the culmination of a lot of scrutiny for a month and it didn't matter if he scored. He was part of a winning team."
Boudreau said Ovechkin was so focused on winning that there were times he came back to the bench kicking himself not because he misfired on a shot or passed up a shot he should take or because he didn't get the puck deep on a play.
Due to the conditions Washington was playing a chip-it-in game and was attempting to win the battle below the circles, and Ovechkin -- he of the 571 career points since 2005-06 -- was with the program.
"There were a couple of times he didn't get the puck deep and he's the first one coming to the bench going, 'I know, I know, I'm sorry,' " Boudreau said. "You watch later on in the game and he was doing whatever it took to win as a team. That's what captains are all about, and he doesn't get enough credit for it. He deserves it."
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