In the Washington Capitals' 5-4 overtime victory against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday, Alex Ovechkin scored two first-period goals in 53 seconds, his NHL-leading seventh multi-goal game of the season and 83rd of his career, leaving him 10 shy of tying Peter Bondra's franchise record.
Ovechkin, however, earned something on Tuesday that he had yet to this season: his first multi-assist game. His impressive cross-ice pass to Martin Erat on a second-period power play led to Troy Brouwer's blistering one-timer, and he threaded another to a streaking Mike Green for the overtime game-winner as the Capitals won their second straight game after dropping their previous seven.
As Ovechkin barreled towards the Sabres' net, he bluffed the wrister, drawing Buffalo defenseman Mike Weber and goaltender Jhonas Enroth, who was unable to cheat on the pass with the league's leading goal-scorer moving in fast. With the Sabres' attention focused on Ovechkin, Green skated towards the net unguarded and received Ovechkin's pass with plenty of space to operate.
Added Enroth: "Especially when it’s Ovechkin coming down there. He had the inside shot there so I challenged a little bit extra and he … got it over to Green, who was pretty far down near the goal line. It was a pretty long pass for me.”
There is no question that Ovechkin is a "shoot first, ask questions later" kind of player and his playmaking ability has been understandably overlooked throughout his career as a result, but by proving himself capable of setting up others (his assist on Green's goal was his 17th assist of the season, but just his fifth at even strength), he will become even more of a multi-faceted threat than he already is.
Earlier this week, coach Adam Oates pointed to a pass that Ovechkin made to Nicklas Backstrom early in the first period of Washington's 5-0 victory against the Montreal Canadiens, forcing goaltender Carey Price to make a point-blank save.
(He also set up Casey Wellman for the Capitals' fifth goal on Saturday on a play similar to Green's, about which Wellman said, "I think everyone in the arena thought he was going to shoot that, and he froze the [defenseman], froze the goalie and set me up pretty well there.")
"The pass he makes to Backy in the first period is excellent," Oates said. "That's 1-0 if we bury that, right? Every five-on-five situation that he can add to his game is huge for all of us.
"He's still a guy who looks to shoot first, but obviously there's times when he can make plays. I think any time he can make a play like that will help him score because it makes them more aware that he can do other things and broaden his horizons five-on-five."
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