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Capitals' Ovechkin lives up to hype at Winter Classic

by Adam Vingan /

WASHINGTON -- He already had one goal to his name in the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, but Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin craved another.

Having pounced on a rebound to give the Capitals a two-goal lead in the first period against the Chicago Blackhawks at Nationals Park on Thursday, he struck the post and crossbar on consecutive shot attempts in the opening 90 seconds of the second period.

Ovechkin and the Capitals provided a thrilling ending to the Winter Classic, when Troy Brouwer scored the game-winning goal on the power play with 12.9 seconds left in a 3-2 victory. As usual, Ovechkin celebrated with uncontained exuberance.

Brouwer scored the game-winner, but Ovechkin was dominant throughout.

"The bigger the stage, the bigger Alex is," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "Alex is … he's a rock star. Alex has this ability, as [do all] the great stars, that you want to keep your eyes on him. Even if he's not doing anything, good, bad or indifferent, you want to watch him. And that's what star power does."

In all, Ovechkin finished with two points and 13 total shot attempts, four on goal.

"It's going to be [an experience we remember] for all our lives," Ovechkin said. "I'm pretty sure we're going to watch this hockey game and we'll enjoy it."

When the Capitals arrived at Nationals Park on Thursday morning, Ovechkin's teammates immediately noticed his familiar gap-toothed smile enveloping his face. It put them at ease, knowing that he would embrace the spotlight as only his charisma allows.

"You could tell he was really excited to be out there," Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen said. "He had a lot of jump. … That's a good trait to have when there's a big stage and a big moment that he kind of thrives on that."

Immediately upon being hired by the Capitals last May, Trotz faced innumerable questions about his new superstar. How the two would co-exist? Could a coach synonymous with structure transform Ovechkin into more of a multidimensional player?

"A lot of people want to tear him apart, but how many superstars have scored as many goals, how many superstars put people in the seats, how many superstars play as physical as Alex Ovechkin? There's not very many," Trotz said. "And that's what makes him unique."

Ovechkin has always savored the magnitude of important games. His second Winter Classic appearance simply provided further evidence.

"There's a lot of players in this League who want the big stage, but when they're put in the spotlight, they're not as big," Trotz said. "I think that the great players of their generation, and Alex is one, when the stage is very big, you know what you're going to get. You're going to get a good performance, a great performance."

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