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Ranking AO's brilliance; 'The Goal' still stands tallest

by Dan Rosen
By now you must have seen the goal. If for some reason you missed it -- no TV, no Internet or family catastrophe would be the only acceptable reasons -- please grab a cup of Joe, fire up your video player and watch in awe.

Prepare for drooling. It's another breathtaking performance from the game's greatest showman.

Alex Ovechkin's marvelous display of skill, creativity, strength and power produced arguably the goal of the season 10:07 into Washington's 4-3 shootout win against Montreal Wednesday night, and instantly shot up the list of his most brilliant goals to date.

He used his backhand to bank the puck off the boards in front of the penalty boxes and get around defenseman Roman Hamrlik. Ovechkin then skated through the left circle and kept powering through after being hooked off his skates by Kyle Chipchura. While sliding into the crease, Ovechkin unbelievably managed to poke the puck past the right pad of stunned goalie Carey Price for his League-best 42nd goal of the season.

Simply amazing -- but where does it rank in the pantheon of Ovechkin's greatness?

To begin, you have to go all the way back to Jan. 16, 2006 in Phoenix, where Ovechkin scored what remains arguably the goal of the century.

After being knocked down by Paul Mara, Ovechkin slid on his back facing away from the goal, hooked the puck with his stick blade and with only his right hand grasping the stick he glided the puck into the net, past goalie Brian Boucher, who was far out of the crease.

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

What about the one Ovechkin scored to win Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal against Philadelphia last April?

With the game knotted 4-4 late in the third period, Flyers defenseman Lasse Kukonen was trying to organize a breakout from behind his goal. He attempted a pass to Jaroslav Modry in the left circle, but a forechecking Ovechkin knocked the puck away from him.

The puck went back to Kukonen between the circles, but Ovechkin didn't give up on the play. He followed the puck and deftly lifted Kukonen's stick to take the puck away from him. With goalie Martin Biron now swimming on the ice, Ovechkin ripped the puck into the goal with 4:32 left to give the Caps an eventual 5-4 victory.

"A pretty veteran move," Caps center Sergei Fedorov said later that night.

He had one of those Nov. 26, 2007, when he assisted on his own goal against Buffalo.

After racing down the left wing, Ovechkin pulled an inside-out move to get around defenseman Brian Campbell at the top of the left circle and then fired a shot on goalie Ryan Miller. The rebound came right back to Ovechkin, who after getting around defenseman Jaroslav Spacek in front of the crease, fired the puck into the net.

Ovechkin did it to the Sabres again Dec. 26, 2008.

From just in front of the Caps' goal, defenseman Bryan Helmer shoveled the puck up the ice to Ovechkin, who knifed through the neutral zone, beating Sabres defenseman Toni Lydman. He then turned defenseman Henrik Tallinder into Swiss cheese before being taken down to the ice.

No big deal.

From his stomach, Ovechkin still had the presence of mind to keep the puck in front of him and slide it past goalie Patrick Lalime.

"It was a pretty cool goal," Ovechkin said afterward. "I was tired and I just fell, and I shoot. It was in, so that's pretty cool."
"Just when I thought I've seen it all, he does something else." -- Glen Hanlon

Let's also not forget about the one he scored on Jan. 13, 2006 in Anaheim, just three days before "The Goal" in Phoenix.

Ovechkin, who recorded his first NHL hat trick that night, got the puck at the top of the right circle, and despite being tangled up with defenseman Ruslan Salei, managed to slither his way through the slot into the bottom of the left circle. He did a full 360 before beating goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere with a hard wrist shot.

"Just when I thought I've seen it all, he does something else," ex-Capitals coach Glen Hanlon said that night.

When it comes to the great No. 8, no one should ever think they've seen it all.

Only 23-years-old and in just his fourth NHL season, Ovechkin has plenty more tricks up his sleeve.

"It shouldn't surprise any of us," Caps 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."

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