-- The hard hat could have gone to any number of players following Washington's 6-3 win Wednesday night at Bell Centre, but it was the captain, Alex Ovechkin
, who showed up to meet the media outside the Caps' dressing room proudly wearing the construction cap.
Nobody was surprised.
Ovechkin earned the hard hat that is awarded to the hardest-working guy on the team for his two-goal, one-assist effort in Game 4 that helped propel the Capitals to their third win in a row and put the Montreal Canadiens
' on the brink of elimination.
It wasn't so much that Ovechkin dominated the game Wednesday; it's just that when the Capitals needed him, he dominated at the perfect time.
Ovechkin scored a goal in the first period that finally got the team's power play off the schneid. He got his biggest goal of the series 11:09 into the third period when he broke a 2-2 tie.
"You know, I'm just getting into shape, I think," Ovechkin, who now has four goals in the series after not getting a shot on goal in Game 1, said with a smile. "I feel pretty good. Our line today, the first couple of periods, we tried to find a way to play better…and we find a way."
Ovechkin found his way in a big way with 8:51 to play in the third -- and he finally had his Russian buddy, Alexander Semin
, to thank for it.
Semin got the puck down in the far corner to the left of Semyon Varlamov
and dashed up the left wing boards. Scott Gomez
was hacking him from behind and Josh Gorges
was backpedaling while Benoit Pouliot
came over to try to check him, too.
It was a 1-on-3, but the two other guys coming down with Semin were Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom
. It's probably not the best move to leave either one of them open.
As Gorges tried to poke check the puck, Semin somehow found a way to center it to Ovechkin -- who, thanks to Pouliot's decision to play Semin, was wide open racing down the middle. Ovechkin got the puck, made a quick move around Hal Gill
to put the puck on his forehand and fired a wrist shot past Carey Price
's glove from between the hash marks.
"I knew Backy (Nicklas Backstrom
) was on my right side so it was kind of a 2-on-1," Ovechkin said. "Gill's stick was there so I made a move and made the shot. It was lucky. Price didn't make the save, so it's good."
Semin, who was on the ice with Ovechkin and Backstrom only because of a delayed line change, had zero points and was a complete non-factor in the series until that goal.
"You can say some bad things about how he plays, but he's getting better and in this kind of game he improved himself," Ovechkin said of Semin. "Every guy has to step up. He didn't feel good and different guys helped him. Everybody pushed and pushed him and he made a big play so we could score the goal."
As much as Semin made the play, it was Ovechkin's shot that did in Price.
"That just kind of comes out of nowhere, the puck is bouncing around and it kicks to the middle and then he's 20-feet out with a wrister," Mike Knuble
said. "I think we'll all take our chances with that one. If he is going to be able to get down in that area with the puck on his stick we're all pretty happy with that and we get to enjoy the result."
Gill was obviously frustrating because he tried to make an aggressive poke check but missed and paid dearly.
"It's a fine line," Gill said. "I poke it away and it is out of our end. I miss it and it's in our net. That's the tough part of playing hockey, it's just an inch away from being a good play. He's the type of player that makes you pay when you miss."
Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau
noted that Ovechkin and Semin, who don't normally play on the same line, like it when they get on the ice together -- and those are the types of goals they are capable of creating.
"They really read each other well," Boudreau said. "They like playing with each other and look for each other. That was the perfect spot. The shot -- he gets that thing away so fast I don't think Carey had a chance at all on it. That’s his gift."
Fifty-two seconds after Ovechkin's goal, Marc-Andre Bergeron
turned the puck over behind Price and Jason Chimera
wound up slamming home a rebound to make it 4-2.
"That's how good he is," Capitals center Eric Belanger
said of Ovechkin. "You give him a little bit and he's so good he's going to put the puck in the net. That was a big, big goal for us at a key time and we never looked back."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl