NEW YORK -- There are times that Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin is performing like a player possessed.
Ovechkin certainly appeared in that state of mind during a 2-1 victory against the New York Rangers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Second Round series at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.
Game 2 of the best-of-7 series is Saturday (12:30 p.m. ET; NBC, TVA Sports, SN).
His first-period goal against Henrik Lundqvist was majestic. His assist to right wing Joel Ward for the game-winner with 1.3 seconds remaining in the third period was highlight reel-worthy.
"He made an unbelievable pass across his body; he was almost behind the net," Ward said after the game.
Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom said, "I think maybe [the Rangers] expected him to go around the net and it was a great feed by him to get it to Ward."
Washington coach Barry Trotz said after the game that Ovechkin has similar traits as Hockey Hall of Fame member and former Rangers captain Mark Messier.
"He's a rare talent in this League," Trotz said. "He's similar to Messier in that he can play a heavy game, intimidate you with his skill and his physicality, and that's rare. [Ovechkin] has been terrific as an all-in player for us this season."
Ovechkin had two points, a plus-1 rating, six shots on goal and six other shot attempts in Game 1. He was double-shifted on more than a few occasions; he took 11 of his 28 shifts in the first period.
"When I got the job with the Capitals [in May 2014], I met him in Las Vegas at the NHL Awards and sat down and spent about four or five hours with him; I had about 45 or 50 questions," Trotz said. "I asked him to do certain things. I told him that I thought he had too much glide in his game. I said that when I was in the other conference [as coach of the Nashville Predators] he was easy to cover. I said I want to have a plan to get you the puck so do what you do when you have it. And do what I want you to do when you don't have it so we can get it back to you.
"It was really that simple."
Trotz said he feels lucky to be coaching one of the League's most dynamic players, whose 53 goals in the regular season were the most he's scored in six seasons. Ovechkin was second on the Capitals 259 hits and third with 45 takeaways.
"I feel he's been a guy who may have been miscast in the past," Trotz said. "[Ovechkin] is one of those guys who really wants to win. He's won virtually every award he can win individually and I think he's at a real good time in his career. Now he wants to do something team-wise. I wanted to share all my experiences with him; try to teach him how to lead. And he's bought into everything."