-- Very few NHL defensemen have proven to be up to the task of slowing Alex Ovechkin
, but Brooks Orpik
did a fantastic job Sunday.
The Pittsburgh Penguins
' blueliner kept the two-time defending MVP in front of him despite Ovechkin's best efforts to spin and juke. He also blocked four of Ovechkin's shots.
Yet Ovechkin still had a hat trick and a four-point effort in leading his Washington Capitals
to a 5-4 overtime victory against the defending champs.
"He finds a way," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau
said. "Brooks Orpik
always plays against him and always plays him hard. When he's in the zone, he's in the zone and it doesn't matter. Sometimes he doesn't have to dominating between the blue lines, carrying the puck and looking flashy.
"When you start hitting him and he starts getting into the game and he gets his adrenaline going then all he needs to do is touch the puck. On his third goal, you see the faceoff and boom -- it is in the net."
Ovechkin watched his chief adversary, Sidney Crosby
, stake his team to a 2-0 lead and pull even with him at the top of the NHL leaderboard with 39 goals. Then he stormed back into the lead with another transcendent performance.
There were no highlight-reel markers like the left-handed backhand tally at Madison Square Garden three days prior, and Orpik did limit his opportunities when he could. When the chances came, Ovechkin was efficient.
Boudreau has raised concern about the length of Ovechkin's shifts from time to time during his tenure, but his endurance proved fruitful in the second period. Orpik went to the bench after a 60-second shift and nine seconds later Ovechkin had his first goal -- he drifted behind the two Penguins defensemen and broke in alone after a long outlet pass from Jeff Schultz
His next two goals came when Ovechkin got in the way of a Tom Poti
shot from the point and swept in the loose puck and then directly off a faceoff. There wasn't much Orpik could do on either play.
"Brooks did a great job," Bylsma said. "He was good with his gap and with his stick. He was good all night. [Ovechkin] is a good player who got some loose pucks and some opportunities and capitalized on them."
As usual when these teams get together, Ovechkin was in the middle of several physical confrontations. Craig Adams
helped him into the boards late in the first period, and Mike Knuble
took exception. He fought Adams and earned 17 minutes in penalties because of it (instigator, fighting and misconduct).
After Jordan Staal
's first goal to put Pittsburgh up 3-1, there was a large fracas behind the Washington net. Penguins defenseman Kris Letang
gave Ovechkin a face wash in the middle of it, and he took exception. Ovechkin tackled him and the two exchanged blows before each were hit with roughing penalties.
Ovechkin now leads the NHL with 42 goals and has stretched his lead in points to eight over Vancouver's Henrik Sedin
. Since being named captain Jan. 5, Ovechkin has 16 goals and 36 points in 18 games.
"He's good. He's got a good shot and he's dangerous around the net," Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury
said. "He battles hard and you have to keep an eye on him."