Philadelphia at Washington

Ovechkin begins NHL playoff career with memorable winning goal

CBSSports.com wire reports
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WASHINGTON -- Alexander Ovechkin was bumped around, boxed in and, well, pretty much Broad Street Bullied for most of his NHL playoff debut.

And then, with the outcome hanging in the balance, Alex the Great emerged.

Held without a single shot until late, the league's leading scorer stole the puck and netted the tiebreaking goal with 4½ minutes remaining, giving the Washington Capitals a 5-4 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round series Friday.

"They held him in check pretty good," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said, "but he's one of the guys that needs one chance."

That's pretty much all Ovechkin got against the Flyers, who led 4-2 heading into the final period, thanks to two goals apiece by Daniel Briere and Vaclav Prospal. But Ovechkin got going by helping set up the first of two goals by defenseman Mike Green that lifted Washington into a tie.

And then Ovechkin, the 22-year-old Russian who set a NHL record for goals by a left wing this season with 65, put the finishing touch on the Capitals' first playoff game since 2003. He took the puck away from defenseman Lasse Kukkonen and slid it past goalie Martin Biron, drawing "M-V-P!" chants from the red-clad fans.

"A pretty veteran move," said Sergei Fedorov, a 38-year-old who would know, having earned 1994 league MVP honors and three Stanley Cup championships with Detroit.

Looking at the way his young teammate handled himself all night, Fedorov lavished more praise on Ovechkin.

"It's not easy: so much talk about everything and such a great season," Fedorov said. "Playoffs is a little different. I'm actually surprised -- really amazed -- that he kept himself so together, so cool in the final moments of the game."

Before the game, Boudreau was asked how his young team would handle the postseason. The answer might have sounded surprising: "I think of anybody, the most nervous guy is probably Alex."

And afterward Ovechkin confirmed that he had the jitters.

"It was different," Ovechkin said between gasps of air.

Perhaps he was winded thanks to his goal celebration. First, he sprinted over and slammed his body into the glass. Then, he did a high-step along the boards. And finally, he skated all the way down to the other end to exchange high-fives with Washington goalie Cristobal Huet.

Ovechkin also acknowledged being tired after dealing with the Flyers' warm introduction to the playoffs. Kukkonen greeted Ovechkin with an extra tap here, an extra shove there. Mike Knuble said "Hello" with an extra stick to the ribs. And Ovechkin, whose 446 shots were the second-most in a season in NHL history, did not register one on this night until nearly 13 minutes into the third period.

"We did a good job of containing him," Philadelphia's Scottie Upshall said, "for the first 45 minutes."

Not long enough, clearly.

Game 2 is Sunday at Washington, where the hosts have won seven straight games. They've also won eight in a row overall, and 12 of 13, a remarkable turnaround that culminated in a Southeast Division title and No. 3 seeding for the playoffs. When Boudreau took over as coach, replacing the fired Glen Hanlon, Washington was 6-14-1 -- worst among the NHL's 30 teams. At the season's midpoint, the Capitals still ranked only 14th of the East's 15 teams.

So what was a little thing like a two-goal deficit heading into the third period? Even if the Capitals never had overcome that sort of hole to win a playoff game?

Which is why Boudreau instructed his players at the second intermission: "Don't give up. Don't give up. Just keep pushing."

They heeded his words. Green, who led NHL defensemen in goals with 18 this season, pulled Washington to 4-3 only 1:50 into the third period, putting in a pretty backhanded feed from Fedorov.

Green then tied it at 4 with about 13 ½ minutes to go on what essentially was a 5-on-3, because Briere was serving a penalty for high-sticking, and Philadelphia's Patrick Thoresen was down on the ice, writhing in pain, after being hit in the groin while blocking a shot.

When Green's slap shot from near the blue line went in, he was tackled by Ovechkin and other teammates at center ice. Thoresen, meanwhile, was helped off toward the locker room and later was taken to the hospital, possibly facing surgery.

That gave the Flyers pause, another thing to worry about on a night they played well enough to take the lead, then poorly enough to allow it to slip away.

"We've been successful tonight," Prospal said. "Too bad we didn't win the game."

Notes

  • Donald Brashear, who scored Washington's first goal, played for the Flyers from 2001-06 and entered the night with two goals in 49 career playoff games.
  • Dave Steckel returned to action after missing Washington's last 14 regular-season games because regular season and a pair of practices this week with an upper body injury.
  • D Jason Smith, Philadelphia's captain, played after missing the last game of the regular season and a pair of practices this week with an upper body injury.
  • Capitals D Shaone Morrisonn (upper body injury) returned to the lineup.
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
 
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Mike Green and Alexander Ovechkin celebrate Green's second goal to tie the game at 4. (US Presswire)
Mike Green and Alexander Ovechkin celebrate Green's second goal to tie the game at 4. (US Presswire)

Related Links
 
Scoreboard
Philadelphia (0-1-0)1304
Washington  (1-0-0) «1135
Three Stars
M. Green
WAS


Goals: 2
Assist(s): 0
A. Ovechkin
WAS


Goals: 1
Assist(s): 1
D. Briere
PHI


Goals: 2
Assist(s): 1
Scoring Summary
1ST PERIOD
03:16Donald Brashear (1), Wrist Shot. Assist: Matt Bradley, Tom Poti
08:17Vaclav Prospal (1), Snap Shot. Assist: Kimmo Timonen, Scott Hartnell
2ND PERIOD
04:08Dave Steckel (1), Wrist Shot. Assist: Matt Bradley, John Erskine
11:46Daniel Briere (1), Snap Shot. Assist: Mike Knuble
12:19Vaclav Prospal (2), Wrist Shot. Assist: Daniel Briere, Lasse Kukkonen
15:22Power Play - Daniel Briere (2), Wrist Shot. Assist: Mike Richards, Vaclav Prospal
3RD PERIOD
01:50Mike Green (1), Wrist Shot. Assist: Sergei Fedorov, Alexander Semin
06:26Power Play - Mike Green (2), Snap Shot. Assist: Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom
15:28Alex Ovechkin (1), Snap Shot, Unassisted.
Penalty Summary
1ST PERIOD
01:14Knuble, 2 min, Slashing
11:06Jurcina, 2 min, Boarding
2ND PERIOD
09:38Briere, 2 min, Slashing
13:46Cooke, 2 min, Interference
18:11Green, 2 min, Delay of Game - Puck Over Glass
3RD PERIOD
05:22Briere, 2 min, High-Sticking
Shots On Goal
 123T
Philadelphia613322
Washington4111227
Goalies
GoalieMINSSGA
Martin Biron59:13225
Cristobal Huet60:00184
Power Play Conversions
Power Play
Philadelphia0-for-0
Washington0-for-0
Game Information
Attendance - 18277
Referees - Brad Watson, Wes McCauley
Linesmen - Shane Heyer, Steve Barton
 
Other Games
NYR 2 Final
NJ 1
Ott 3 Final
Pitt 5
Colo 2 Final
OT
Min 3