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Nothing compares to AO's, Sid's performances

by John McGourty / NHL.com
Hockey Hall of Famer Ted Lindsay watched Alexander Ovechkin will his Washington Capitals past Sidney Crosby's Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-3, Monday night in a game in which Ovechkin and Crosby both scored hat tricks.

Washington won the first two games of this Eastern Conference Semifinal and the series will resume Wednesday in Pittsburgh in a game seen on VERSUS, CBC and RDS at 7 p.m. ET from Mellon Arena.

Lindsay was the NHL's best left winger from the mid-1940s well into the 1950s and a winner of four Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings while playing on the Production Line with Gordie Howe and centers Sid Abel and Alex Delvecchio.

Turning off the TV after Monday night's game, Lindsay turned to Joanne, his wife, and said, "Now, that was exciting. Those guys are great. I don't think I've ever seen anything like that."

Lindsay has been closely watching the NHL since he joined it in 1944 and he's right: There has never been a Stanley Cup Playoffs game where the sport's top two superstars had dueling hat tricks in a one-goal game.

Milt Schmidt goes back even further. The 1940 Art Ross Trophy winner and 1951 Hart Trophy winner won four Stanley Cups, two with the Boston Bruins, in 1939 and 1941, and two as general manager of the Bruins in 1970 and 1972.

"The only comparison I can make to the way Ovechkin took over that game Monday was when we won the Stanley Cup in 1941 and my teammate, Mel Hill, had overtime goals in three of our four wins against the Rangers," Schmidt said.

Hill scored in triple overtime to win Game 1 and scored in overtime to win Game 2. The Bruins won Game 3 and looked to have it locked up but the Rangers, led by Bryan Hextall, Lynn Patrick, Babe Pratt, Alf Pike, Clint Smith and goalie Davey Kerr, roared back to win the next three. The teams tied, 1-1, in regulation in Game 7 and played into the third overtime before Hill scored the series winner.

"That Ovechkin is one of the best I've ever seen," Schmidt said. "He's aggressive but he can also be an altar boy, if the coach wants him to be. Whatever the situation calls for, he can do it. It was wonderful to see him use the wrist shot to score that last goal. I get tired of the loud banging on the boards and glass that says a slap shot wasn't on net! Overall, he had a fantastic game and so did Crosby in defeat."

Colorado Avalanche center Joe Sakic and Vancouver Canucks center Trevor Linden swapped hat tricks on April 25, 1996, in Game 5 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series, won by Sakic's overtime goal. The Avalanche wrapped up the series two nights later.

Neither Sakic nor Linden had won a major award to that point in their careers, although Sakic would win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs that year, after the Avalanche swept the Florida Panthers in the Stanley Cup Final. Linden had led his team to the 1994 Stanley Cup Final, and Crosby led his team to the Final last season.

In contrast, Ovechkin, in 2008, and Crosby, in 2007, won the Hart Trophy. Ovechkin edged Crosby in voting for the 2006 Calder Memorial Trophy. Crosby also won the Art Ross Trophy and Lester B. Pearson Award in 2007 while Ovechkin won the Rocket Richard Trophy the past two seasons and the Pearson and Ross trophies in 2008.

Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux were the best players in the 1980s and 1990s but they never met in the playoffs. NHL.com searched through the archives but couldn't find a similar situation.

"That's just never happened before," said John Halligan, former publicity director for the New York Rangers and the NHL. "Rocket Richard and Gordie Howe never did it. They had a lot of points but not a lot of playoff hat tricks. This was a unique occurrence."

"You have to go back before the 1970s, I know that" said Scotty Bowman, whose nine Stanley Cup titles lead all NHL coaches. Bowman won two more working in the front office for the 1991 Penguins and 2008 Red Wings. "The biggest rivalry I've witnessed in the playoffs was between Rocket Richard and Gordie Howe. Their teams met in the final four times in six years in the early 1950s. There wasn't as much goal scoring as there is today but they both had great individual games during that time. Rocket had some big overtime goals and Howe was always a big factor.

Crosby-Ovechkin Gear Alex Ovechkin Gear Sidney Crosby Gear "This rivalry between Crosby and Ovechkin, both great players, is good for hockey," Bowman continued. "Pittsburgh and Washington have a great rivalry, even though they're not in the same division, because they're close geographically. I think this will be a long series because the Penguins will be better at home. They played great in Game 2 but Ovechkin shoots so hard, they couldn't stop him."

Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland flew to Anaheim on Sunday after the Ducks downed the Red Wings, 4-3, Sunday in Detroit to even that Western Conference Semifinal series at one game apiece. He made sure he was in position to enjoy the Pittsburgh-Washington game on Monday.

"I was in California watching it and it was amazing," Holland said. "To see two of the best players in the world get hot in the same game against each other is must-see TV. The thing that makes them both great is their passion in addition to their skills. We all know they are talented but they both have tremendous passion. Their love for the game and their love of competition sets them apart from most players. They have world-class talent.

"Crosby is a fierce, fierce competitor and Ovechkin is the same. What they did (Monday) night, when the spotlight was on them, is what they most often do in that situation, they excel.

"I was fortunate to be around Steve Yzerman when we had the run from the mid-1990s until his retirement in 2006," Holland continued. "You look for your leader to be your best player in the biggest games and Steve did that for us. Crosby and Ovechkin have done that for their teams, last night, all year and throughout their careers.

"This battle is going to go on for a lot of years."

Contact John McGourty at jmcgourty@nhl.com


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