When Alex Ovechkin was asked Saturday about what many will call one of the most dazzling goals of his career, he replied, “Our line didn’t play well.”
OK. Maybe not.
But just as he has so many other times in his career, Ovechkin turned a game around with a breathtaking end-to-end rush in which he deftly slid the puck behind him, weaved around Devils defenseman John Moore, and beat goaltender Keith Kinkaid under the crossbar for the go-ahead goal in the Caps’ eventual 5-3 win in their season opener.
“He’s got a unique ability that he can shoot the puck from behind your feet,” said Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik, who scored his first goal as a Capital in the win. “If you overplay it, that’s what he can do to you. It was a tough night for that guy (Moore). I think he blocked two of Ovi’s slappers, too.”
“That’s what fans pay their money to see,” said Caps left wing Jason Chimera, who picked up a goal and an assist in his season debut. “Just a world-class goal by a world-class player. A lot of guys would fall down if they tried that kind of stuff.”
Caps goaltender Braden Holtby, who stopped 21 of 24 shots, including a second-period breakaway by Adam Henrique that kept the score knotted at 2-2, said he was more impressed with Ovechkin’s shot placement – under the crossbar – even though Kinkaid said, “I’ve got to make that save.”
“The move was good, but I think the shot was the impressive part, where he put it,” Holtby said. “And I thought his assist (to Marcus Johansson to make it 4-2) was equally good.
“The way he can shoot the puck he gets so much respect and that back door was pretty wide open and he found it and Marcus did a great job putting it in.”
In 22 shifts and 21:02 of ice time, Ovechkin had 10 shot attempts (four of them were blocked, two missed the net), one goal, one assist and was a plus-1.
“We’re very fortunate to have a guy like Ovi, who really didn’t do anything early in the game,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “I thought he was a non-factor. But when the game was on the line he became a big factor in the next two goals.
“But I didn’t like our overall game. Too many turnovers. It was not a solid game for us.”
The Capitals have 81 games to correct some of the miscues of Saturday night. But having a game-breaker like Ovechkin made the difference in Game 1.
“I shook my head, tipped my hat to him and said, ‘Eighty-one more games,’ ’’Justin Williams said. “If you can just do that every time we’re tied, that’ll be fine.”