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Ovi a little rusty in return

by Arpon Basu

MONTREAL -- This was not exactly the way Alex Ovechkin wanted to make the highlight reels off his grand return from a three-game suspension, but at least he was able to see the humor in his own rust.

Alex Ovechkin
Left Wing - WSH
GOALS: 20 | ASST: 19 | PTS: 39
SOG: 172 | +/-: -4
Ovechkin came off a 12-day layoff in the Washington Capitals' 3-0 win in Montreal on Saturday afternoon by playing 19:57, dishing out three hits but registering only a single shot on goal for just the sixth time this season.

However, it was a golden opportunity for a shot he passed up that had Ovechkin laughing at himself after the game.

In the second period, having beaten Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban to a puck deep in the offensive zone, Ovechkin was in prime position to shoot when he inexplicably passed it across to Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges, who simply turned the puck back towards the Capitals' end.

An Ovechkin at the top of his game would simply have wired it on net even if he thought teammate Alexander Semin was open on the other side. But a 13-day layoff meant Ovechkin wasn't exactly himself.

"That was a pretty funny moment actually; I was laughing when I saw that on the bench," Ovechkin said. "I could shoot the puck, I won the battle, but I heard the stick and I thought it was Semin. I gave it to him and said, ‘Oh my God.' I was right in front of the net. But again, it's just playing games. You could see, maybe if I didn't miss those three games I would shoot it."

The Capitals didn't particularly need their captain to be in top form to beat the struggling Canadiens on Saturday, but they certainly will Sunday afternoon when they host a matinee against the Boston Bruins. The defending Stanley Cup-champion will arrive in the nation's capital with a chip on their collective shoulder, having struggled to a 1-3-0 record since visiting the White House on Jan. 23. Boston lost 2-1 to the Penguins on Saturday.


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"We've got a team that lost today, they lost in D.C. a week ago and they're going to come in as hungry as anybody," Capitals center Brooks Laich said. "They're still a team we have a tremendous amount of respect for. We're going to have to play a very good hockey game to beat them."

Ovechkin openly admitted he struggled against Montreal, but still took away some positives and saw things to build on heading into the stretch drive a rested and motivated player.

"Today I didn't play so good, you can see three games is a lot and 10 days without a game is kind of a long time," he said. "But it was good, I had lots of (ice) time today, I felt the puck, I felt the energy, I felt the hitting. It was good."

This enforced rest after his three-game suspension for leaving his feet on a hit against Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek on Jan. 22 may in fact turn out to be a blessing in disguise for Ovechkin, who is heading towards a second-straight season of career-worst offensive numbers with 20 goals and 19 assists in 48 games.

"I feel fresh out there," he said. "I went back and forth (on the ice) and I was not tired. That's good for me."

Aside from Ovechkin's production, his mere presence could help a Capitals power play that has not scored in its last 18 opportunities dating back to an Ovechkin goal with the man advantage Jan. 18 against the Canadiens, a span of six-plus games.

"With the way the suspension worked out it seemed like a really long one because it basically wound up being about a week and a half," said Capitals defenseman and power-play trigger man Dennis Wideman. "I thought he played well. He was working, he threw some hits. Whenever he gets physically involved, he's that much better. As far as the power play goes, you saw a guy basically went over there and stood with Ovi. Then it's on me and (Semin) and the other guys to make plays because they're basically taking him away."

It didn't work out Saturday, with the Capitals going 0-for-3 on the power play, but Ovechkin will need to assert himself offensively in all situations from here to the end if Washington wants to secure itself a playoff berth and a fifth straight Southeast Division championship.

As far as Ovechkin is concerned, he's ready to get it going as soon as Sunday afternoon.

"I can't wait to play tomorrow," he said. "I feel good, I feel fresh. That's what I missed."
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