NEWARK, N.J. -- Here's Alex Ovechkin's explanation of his highlight-reel goal in the third period at Prudential Center on Saturday:
"When you feel good, everything working well, those kinds of moments happen," Ovechkin said.
Here's why that explanation, as mundane as it is, is telling of how Ovechkin feels about the game and how the puck feels on his stick:
"He's been getting some great chances," Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz said.
Yes he has. The fact that one finally went in is a great sign for the Capitals, because when Ovechkin is feeling the puck, feeling good about his shot, his overall game, and he gets the result, a hot streak is typically in the offing.
Right Wing - WSH
GOALS: 15 | ASST: 12 | PTS: 27
SOG: 152 | +/-: 7
Ovechkin put on a vintage performance in a 4-0 win against the New Jersey Devils
. He was fast, playing up and down the ice, releasing quick shots off the rush, two of which found the post, crashing the net, laying out his body, and making moves on unsuspecting young defenseman like Jon Merrill
, who will likely never forget getting deked by Ovechkin the way he did at 7:16 of the third period.
Ovechkin carried the puck in from the far blue line, put it through his legs and got around Merrill, eluding a hip check in the process before roofing a backhand over goalie Cory Schneider's blocker.
It was his 15th goal of the season.
"Yeah, just another highlight-reel goal," Capitals defenseman Mike Green said sarcastically. "He came down the wall before that, took a shot and I think he toe-picked into the boards, so he had to redeem himself. That was a beautiful goal. I've seen a few of them."
What's important about that goal is not the beauty of it, though that is what makes it memorable. The importance of the goal is that it's tangible evidence of what Ovechkin has been doing of late.
He hadn't scored in eight of his previous nine games, but he had been in position to score and his chances were getting better and better, to the point where he felt his line, including Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson, was "great" against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday.
Ovechkin was a plus-2 with six shots on goal and 14 total shot attempts in Washington's 5-4 overtime win at Columbus. It was his fifth consecutive game with six or more shots on goal. When he's shooting like that, it's usually a matter of time until he breaks out.
"He's had a couple of games when he hasn't scored and you look at the scoresheet and he's got seven or eight shots, good looks too," Trotz said. "I've never seen a guy hit the post so much. I swear he's hit 15 or 20 goal posts this year. We just gotta get the target in about six inches and he'll have a lot of goals. But he's playing well. His two-way game is pretty strong. He's gone from a minus-36 to right now he's plus-7. That's a pretty good turnaround in anybody's book. I like the way he's playing. He's dynamic offensively and he's been committed defensively."
Ovechkin said he felt good from the start of the game Saturday. He said he could feel his shot, that he wasn't concentrating on where the puck was on his stick but instead that he was just firing away, trying to pick targets.
He picked the wrong targets to start. He hit the left post at 12:26 of the first period and again at 9:13 of the second, but he didn't get frustrated because he could feel something good was going to happen.
It did at 7:16 of the third period, and it could have again at 10:48, when Ovechkin was awarded a penalty shot because of his speed. Schneider made a pad save on him there, but it hardly ruined Ovechkin's night or his performance.
"I feel when we have, our line, that kind of jump and that kind of shift by shift mentality Trotz will see it and put us out there more, and you know some good moments are going to happen," Ovechkin said. "Against Columbus we played great. We played simple, played our game, and we got results in OT. Right now we have to keep playing like we are, get it deep, play physical, and make some traffic because if me and [Backstrom] have some space, we're going to use it. You could see how we played [Saturday], it was pretty good, like back in the old days, you know."