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AO and his rowdy friends arrive in style at playoff party

by Dan Rosen

Mike Green's two third-period tallies put teammate Alex Ovechkin in postion to score the game winning goal in the Washington Capitals' wild 5-4 win over the Philadelphia Flyers in Friday night's series opener.
Highlights from the Caps thrilling win
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The superstar showed up in Game 1 at the exact moment his team needed. That's what great players do, and everybody knows Alex Ovechkin has distinguished himself as one of the greatest in the NHL today.

However, just like any other superstar from any other generation -- be it Gordie Howe or Wayne Gretzky -- Ovechkin can't do it alone.

That's part of the beauty of these Washington Capitals. They know they may actually be a better team when Ovechkin scores only one goal while other players step up and combine for four, which is exactly what happened Friday night at the Verizon Center in the series opener against Philadelphia, a wild 5-4 win for the home team.

Any way you cut it, that's five goals. That's usually enough to win in the playoffs.
"You're not going to win with one guy, so if you don't win as a team you're not going to win," Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Look we're not the bottom-scoring team in the League, so we must have secondary scoring."

Ovechkin sent an already ramped up crowd into a tizzy with his highway-robbery steal of the puck from Flyers defenseman Lasse Kukkonen that resulted in the eventual game-winning goal with 4:32 remaining in the game.

However, before Ovechkin’s heroics, the Capitals got goals from a pair of unlikely sources, Donald Brashear and David Steckel. They also received a pair of third-period tallies from defenseman Mike Green, which erased the 4-2 lead the Flyers took into the third period.
If the Caps keep getting secondary scoring like this, there's no telling how far they can go in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Game 2 of this series is Sunday at 2 p.m. as part of the NHL on NBC series.

"I think it's huge," Steckel said of the secondary scoring. "If you look at the games around the League there has been a lot of secondary scoring. From my AHL experience, I can tell you secondary scoring is what wins you games most of the time."

Secondary scoring isn't new to the Capitals, who were eighth in the League this season with 238 goals. However, considering Ovechkin scored 65 -- a record for any left wing in NHL history -- the other scorers were a secondary story for the entire season.
Not anymore.

"I think it's important to help one another," Capitals playoff veteran Sergei Fedorov said. "I am glad Stecks stepped up and Brash scored the first goal. They're important goals. It gives us a little lift, a little depth. It was good to see. Everybody was into it and playing their best."

Boudreau doesn't believe the secondary scoring takes any pressure off Ovechkin. 

"I think Alex puts his own pressure on himself," the coach said.

And, Friday night, you got the sense from the Russian superstar that it did help him greatly.
Ovechkin admitted he was nervous early in the game, and that his hands were shaking. Obviously, the butterflies left his belly in the third period when he had five hits, three shots on goal and the game-winner. Yet, he was happy to have Brashear, Steckel and Green provide the damage before he got on the scoreboard.

"We're a good team when we play our game," Ovechkin said. "This is a team. When you don't score, some guys like Brash and Stecks do a great job. It's unbelievable when different guys help you."

Different guys have quietly been helping Ovechkin all season.

Alexander Semin, who is supposed to score, did 26 times. Brooks Laich shocked everybody with 21 goals after registering just 15 in his first 151 NHL games. Green led all NHL
defensemen with 18 goals. Ovechkin's linemates -- Viktor Kozlov and Nicklas Backstrom -- combined for 30 goals. Michael Nylander, currently injured, had 11 goals in 40 games. Tomas Fleischmann had 10.

That sense of contributing to the cause is important to these Flyers, who are often put in AO’s all-encompassing shadow.

“It's something you have to pride yourselves on when you have Ovechkin in the lineup," said Steckel, who had five goals during the regular season. "Guys are going to key on him all night long and he can't do it by himself."

Still, when the moment was right, Ovechkin became the story of Friday night’s game.
He cleanly picked Kukkonen's pocket in the high slot, lifting the defenseman’s stick and settling the puck on his own stick before ripping a sweet shot past sprawling Flyers goalie Martin Biron. The "MVP" chants rained down on him as Ovechkin celebrated, as usual, like it was his first goal.

Ovechkin also had the assist on Green's game-tying goal 6:26 into the third period.

"There's so much talk about everything and this season, but the playoffs are a little bit different," Fedorov said. "I'm surprised and amazed how he kept himself together and cool at the final moments of the game. To steal that puck and get that goal is a pretty veteran move."
For comparison sake, just know that Wayne Gretzky, in his first career playoff game, exactly 28 years and three days before Ovechkin's, had a goal and an assist against the Flyers. However, his Oilers lost, 4-3, in overtime.

Ovechkin one-upped “The Great One” in Friday’s Game 1. But just like Gretzky, Ovechkin will need his teammates to keep doing their part if he hopes to win more games in this tournament.

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