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Photo credit: Bruce Fedyck

The Washington Capitals’ game against the Winnipeg Jets fell apart the oddest time: as the team went a man to the good in the second period after large-and-in-charge Dustin Byfuglien roughed up Marcus Johansson. Instead of converting, the Caps responded by giving up a plethora of odd-man rushes on the power play. Eventually, Bryan Little scored the inevitable shorty. One minute and ten seconds later, Grant Clitsome scored, giving Winnipeg their first lead and the favor of the game’s momentum.

Things looked bleak, but those are the times that game-changing players relish. With the Caps seemingly about to get run out of the MTS Centre, Alex Ovechkin scored on a breakaway out of nowhere, breathing life back into his team.

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During the intermission interview, Ovechkin said he got “lucky” on that first one. Ever humble.

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Two minutes and twelve seconds later, Ovi scored again. After Marcus Johansson won a draw in the offensive zone, the Russian machine put his head down and blindly ripped one home.

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GIFs by welshhockeyfan

That goal gave the Capitals back the lead. The two goals gave Ovechkin his 78th multi-goal game. It also restored his lead in goals (9) over the NHL. He hopped over Sidney Crosby, Alex Steen, Tomas Hertl, and Patrick Marleau– who all had 7 coming into tonight.

The Capitals would end up getting two points in a game they had no business getting any.

And oh hey by the way, this season could wind up being Alex Ovechkin’s best year ever statistically. He’s on pace to set an NHL record in shots. He recorded 7 shots against Winnipeg, has 61 on the year (6.78/game), and is on pace for 556 shots on the season. The single-season record is 550, held by Phil Esposito in 1970–71. Number two on that list was Ovechkin’s career high: 528 shots in 2008-09, his first second MVP season.

Since Adam Oates has taken over as head coach, Ovi has 41 goals in 57 games. He’s on pace for 82 goals this season. There will be a drop off, but if Ovechkin keeps shooting the puck like he has been, his 12.2% career shooting percentage suggests that he’s likely to break the 60-plus goal plateau for the second time in his career.

It’s still early, but this is a smarter Russian machine. He’s utilized brilliantly on the power play. He’s shooting the puck more and he carries the puck less, trusting his teammates more.

While the Caps record is not impressive, Ovechkin’s play surely has been. This season should be a treat to watch.

Additional reporting and help on stats from Fedor Fedin.

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  • Chris Cerullo

    Shall we start the 50 in 50 games talk now or later…..? ;)

  • yv

    That is a big change of attitude to Ovi from Neil G.
    That second period effort took unusual toll on Ovi. Even after 5-8 min of intermission he still tried to catch his breath during interview.

  • Zuluss

    Why don’t we, counting the end of the last season OV has 31 in 30.

  • Yo8

    I can’t stop replaying his celebration hahaha! Love it when the Jets fans get angry!

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian Oland

    Me too! I loved him coming into frame there slamming the boards.

  • Myan

    The only spreadsheet you will ever need when you find yourself asking “how many goals is Erskine set to score this year?”

    http://www.mediafire.com/?lljm5abtob59mq4

  • Quaternions

    I remember listening to a hockey radio show a few years ago on XM. Phil Esposito was mentioning how he thought that Ovechkin should shoot more. I think Phil would be happy if Ovechkin broke his single season record of shots on goal.

  • Quaternions

    No, lets see how he’s doing around the 40 game mark. Then we can start talking.

  • Adam Stringham

    Ovechkin was league MVP in 07-08, so 08-09 was not his first MVP season. Great article as always, thanks for writing

  • GMGMNeverBreaks

    Am I the only one who noticed Ovechkin’s shootout attempt was basically Matt Hendricks’ paralyzer move?

  • Neil Greenberg

    Yea. I don’t change my mind but I will make new decisions based on new information.

  • BPThomas

    Some people still don’t get how stats work. Keep fighting the good fight Neil

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian Oland

    Thanks, Adam! I fixed. Also thanks for the nice words. This is the coolest copy-edit comment we’ve ever gotten!

  • Roman Z.

    As a fellow Russian, I’m proud of Ovi’s goal-scoring prowess in the last few games, but man does he create so many turnovers!!!

    Buuuuuut, on a more brighter note, I just got Game Center for dirt cheap so I can watch my Caps from Montreal. BAILAMOS?