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Ovechkin gets an instant classic

by John Kreiser
A few thoughts as we wonder what move Alex Ovechkin will come up with next:

Instant classic -- No one likes to score goals more than Alex Ovechkin -- and few players are as good at it. Even for Ovechkin, the goal he scored against Montreal on Wednesday night was out of this world.

Ovechkin's goal 10:07 into Washington's 4-3 shootout win was a play that rivals his spectacular goal at Phoenix on Jan. 16, 2006.

This time, he used his backhand to bank the puck off the boards and get around defenseman Roman Hamrlik at the blue line, skated through the left circle and kept going even after he was hooked and jabbed off his skates by Kyle Chipchura. While sliding toward the crease, Ovechkin somehow poked the puck past the right pad of goaltender Carey Price for his League-high 42nd goal of the season.

Ovechkin's teammates sound like they almost take his brilliance for granted.

"It shouldn't surprise any of us," defenseman Mike Green said. "He loves to score, and he's going to score no matter how it goes in -- if it's on his stomach, back, whatever, he's going to try to score. I think I was more impressed with the backhand around the defenseman."

So Alex, where did this move come from?

"You have to try something new," said Ovechkin, who's on pace to reach the 60-goal mark for the second consecutive season. "Sometimes I try in practice, and (coach) Bruce (Boudreau) says 'What are you doing?' And I say 'Sometimes I need to change my game,' so I'm changing and it's working."

So which was better: Wednesday's goal or the sliding, stick-behind-the-head classic against the Phoenix Coyotes three years ago?

"I've seen that one about 1,000 times on TV," Boudreau said, "but (Wednesday's goal) was as amazing a goal as I've ever seen."

We'll second that.

Power surge -- Just in case you had forgotten, the Detroit Red Wings own the NHL's best power play. The Nashville Predators certainly got the message.

With Johan Franzen back in the lineup after missing five games with a hand injury, the Wings were unstoppable with the extra man against the Preds. Detroit connected five times on just six opportunities as they rolled over Nashville 6-2 at Joe Louis Arena.

Franzen had two of the goals; Nicklas Lidstrom, Jiri Hudler and Henrik Zetterberg scored the others. Lidstrom had the only even-strength goal.

"We've got some guys who can make plays and tonight we got some room," said defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who had 2 assists.

The Red Wings, who are converting on 28.1 percent of their power plays, had the extra man for only 7:02 on their six advantages. It was more than enough.

"They definitely confused us tonight," Nashville defenseman Greg Zanon said.
Even Lidstrom, who orchestrates the power-play unit from the point, said he hadn't seen a night like this one.

"I can't recall that (5 power-play goals). It's great to see the offense clicking, especially we had the power play going," the Wings' captain said. "I thought we had great puck movement out there and a lot of motion, too. It's tough to defend when we can do those things together."

Nashville coach Barry Trotz won't dispute that.

"If they get 2 power-play goals a game against us they usually win," Trotz said. "They get five, they always win."

All hail King Henrik -- Henrik Lundqvist wanted no part of a repeat of Sunday.

The New York Rangers' All-Star goaltender was hooked early in the second period against Philadelphia after allowing four goals on 14 shots in a 5-2 loss that sent the Blueshirts off the ice to a cascade of boos.

Many of those same fans were cheering Lundqvist three nights later after his 25-save effort helped the Rangers beat the New York Islanders for their first regulation win since Jan. 27.

Lundqvist was superb on a night in which the Rangers had more shots, but the 30th-place Islanders matched them chance for chance -- and the offensively challenged Rangers managed to get more than one puck past Yann Danis

"It is a good feeling. It has been a while since I had this feeling," Lundqvist said. "We played pretty much the same way, we just found a way to score two goals."

Lundqvist even had an assist on the winning goal, a power-play tally by Scott Gomez 7:26 into the second period on a shot Danis easily should have stopped but allowed to go through his legs and dribble into the net.

"I don’t know how it went in," said Gomez, who hadn't scored since that last regulation win against Carolina. "You just shoot the puck and good things will happen. Hey, we finally got a bounce going our way."

The win moved the Rangers into fifth in the East -- giving the slumping Blueshirts some breathing room in the playoff race.

"Whether we like it or not, we are in a playoff race now, and we are right in the pack of those teams," Gomez said. "We put ourselves in that position, and it's our job to get out of the pack, which we can do with efforts like the one we had tonight."

One anxious coach
-- If Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock's hair hadn't already gone gray, games like the Blue Jackets' 4-3 win over St. Louis would do the job pretty quickly.

The Jackets led St. Louis 4-1 after two periods, but had to survive two third-period goals and a barrage of shots in the final minute before moving a franchise-record six games over .500.

"The third period is why I don't like coaching," said Hitchcock, who got his 499th NHL win. "We played the score, not the game. St. Louis has no quit in their team. Win or lose, they play right until the end of the game. We got casual."

For 40 minutes, it looked like the Jackets would breeze. They scored twice in each of the first two periods, took a three-goal lead into the locker room after 40 minutes -- and came out looking like they'd forgotten what got them the lead in the first place.

"We felt that we had it won," Columbus forward R.J. Umberger said. "We wanted to get cute and fancy, run up the score. The only way you run up the score is you play the way you did before that."

Trying to do too much?
-- With his team continuing to struggle, Anaheim captain Scott Niedermayer is trying to do everything he can to get the Ducks swimming in the right direction.

Maybe he's trying too hard.

Niedermayer took  third-period penalties against Los Angeles, the second a double-minor with brother Rob already in the box, that the Kings turned into power-play goals on the way to a 4-3 victory.

"He’s trying to carry the team.  It’s very plain to see that he’s trying to do things that are going to make a difference for our hockey club. Sometimes it works. He’s human. He is going to make mistakes, but you have to appreciate the will and the effort that he puts in." -- Ducks coach Randy Carlyle on captain Scott Niedermayer
With the score tied 2-2, Niedermayer was called for slashing Dustin Brown, who scored the go-ahead goal seconds later. He then got involved in a scrum with Kyle Quincey behind the Kings' net during a penalty kill and was tagged with an extra minor, leading to a five-on-three goal by Anze Kopitar.

"On my part, to end up in the box like that, you’re not going to win by doing that," Niedermayer said.

But coach Randy Carlyle said his captain may be trying too hard.

"He’s trying to carry the team," he said. "It’s very plain to see that he’s trying to do things that are going to make a difference for our hockey club. Sometimes it works. He’s human. He is going to make mistakes, but you have to appreciate the will and the effort that he puts in."

He'll be putting in that effort on the road for the next six games -- the Ducks head out on a make-or-break trip that begins Friday night in Detroit. Anaheim leaves Southern California in ninth place, one point out of the final playoff spot, and with every other team it's batting with having games in hand.

"I think what we have to do is just realize that we have an opportunity and a challenge in front of us," Niedermayer said. "We have to try and meet it. You can forget what the plan was back in September right now. We just have to deal with what is in front of us."
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