Nicklas Backstrom doesn’t go to All-Star Games, receive NHL Awards, or get much attention of any kind. He’s just quietly one of the best players in the league making world-class plays every night.
On Tuesday, the NHL’s leading assist man delivered another juicy apple– this time to Joel Ward during a five-on-three power play. Backstrom, in the corner, fired a perfect cross-ice, cross-crease pass to Ward who one-timed the puck past Marc-Andre Fluery. It would stand as the game-winning goal and Nicky’s 44th assist.
Almost every Caps-Pens game during the Ovi and Sid era has been intense, but tonight it went to a whole ‘nother level. And that level was angry. Alex Ovechkin‘s slash to the ankles of Kris Letang sent the Penguins defenseman crashing into the boards. Everyone wearing a bumblebee costume on the ice wanted a piece of the Russian machine after that. Problem is– like we’ve said a million times– Ovi is made of some kind of weird Russian steel that does not break.
Coming into Tuesday, the Pittsburgh Penguins had been shut out by Braden Holtby in two consecutive games. To try and shake him, the Penguins crashed the net on every play.
That’s cool and all, but the Holtbeast wasn’t impressed. Especially when Chris Kunitz got a wee bit too close to his manimal cage.
Alex Ovechkin just scored his 37th goal of the season and it came against the Caps’ biggest rivals. As the Penguins went for a shift change, Mike Green sent a seeing-eye puck to Ovechkin, who was wide open at neutral ice.
The Russian machine raced in alone on Marc-Andre Fleury and backhanded the puck in and immediately out of the net.
Except it took a several minute review to figure out if Ovi actually scored.
Photo: Debora Robinson
Since December, Andre Burakovsky‘s usage in the Caps lineup has been curious as Barry Trotz has had to juggle playing time among veteran and younger players. Coming into Sunday’s game, the skilled young Swede had not received more than nine minutes of ice time since the beginning of February. He’d been used as a fourth-line center, a second-line winger, and a first line winger. He had been scratched in three of the team’s last four games.
But in Burakovsky’s return to the lineup on Sunday against Anaheim, The Burracuda scored twice off of two amazing primary assists from Alex Ovechkin. He played nearly 13 minutes on the team’s first line.
Nearly 10 years ago, Alex Ovechkin told Tarik el Bashir, “I’m okay; Russian machine never breaks” after taking an errant shot to his leg at practice. Sunday, Ovechkin took that toughness to another level after checking Clayton Stoner into the Caps bench.
Dangerously, Stoner’s legs went airborne. His right skate swiped Ovechkin’s left leg from under the knee up to the mid-thigh.
The Anaheim Ducks’ Andrew Cogliano scored on Justin Peters in the game’s first minute. Alex Ovechkin responded 16 seconds later, saying, “Nuh uh, we ain’t going down that easy tonight.”
Four minutes and eleven seconds later, Corey Perry scored. Ovechkin answered few minutes later while on the power play.
It’s going to be one of those games. Ovi will not be going gentle into that good night.
Photo: Stephen Dunn
While his overall possession still needs some improving, Evgeny Kuznetsov has been putting up points and delivering juicy apples since the All-Star Break ended. On Saturday Kuznetsov did it again against the defending champion Kings.
With Jake Muzzin playing him perfectly, Kuznetsov tossed the puck over Muzzin’s stick and back to himself. He carved hard to the middle of the ice where he found an Alex Ovechkin open and waiting.
All Ovi needed was a few inches of space to beat Jonathan Quick for his 34th goal of the year and the 456th of his career.
Even when Alex Ovechkin doesn’t get a perfect pass into his wheelhouse during the power play, The Ovi Spot is still kind to him. After muffing a pass from Nicklas Backstrom, the puck ricocheted off the dasher boards and right back onto the blade of his stick. Ovechkin put the puck flat on the ice and fired at the net.
Troy Brouwer, who apparently is wearing his Cloak of Awesome tonight, perfectly redirected it past by Antti Niemi.
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