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Ovechkin excited at chance to pass Fedorov


Ovechkin excited at chance to pass Fedorov

There is a photo floating around the Twitter-verse of a young Alex Ovechkin in a black and white Sergei Fedorov jersey.

“I was probably like, maybe 12,” Ovechkin said on Monday, hours before Fedorov will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. “I was a big fan of all Russian players.”

On Tuesday night in Detroit, Ovechkin will have the chance to pass Fedorov as Russia’s all-time leading NHL goal scorer. The fact he can reach the milestone in front of Fedorov, who will be honored by the Red Wings before the game, seems surreal to the Capitals’ 30-year-old captain.

“You always want to be No. 1 and when you have a chance to beat it in front of him it’s going to be nice,” said Ovechkin, whose 483 NHL goals are tied with Fedorov for most by a Russian-born player.

“It’s going to be a special moment for me. It’s going to be nice to see him up there. It’s a big moment for him and for me as well -- if I’m going to break it. You never know.”

Fedorov, who played alongside Ovechkin for parts of his final two seasons in the NHL, told reporters in Toronto he would like to see Ovechkin break his record Tuesday night at Joe Louis Arena.

“I would hug him in his uniform," Fedorov said. "He'd be all wet and my suit would be ruined, but I wouldn't care. I'll put it somewhere in the closet. I'd cherish that moment.”

Ovechkin says he cherishes the time he spent playing with Fedorov, who was acquired by the Caps late in the 2007-08 season when Ovechkin carried the Capitals into the playoffs with a monster 65-goal, 112-point season.

“I had a huge privilege to play with him and the luck to be on the same team and on the same line,” Ovechkin said. “He was the best teammate I ever had and the best player I ever had.

“He was almost like a Dad because Bruce (Boudreau) didn’t have experience with the playoffs and he kind of was a player and a coach at the same time. He helped with what we had to do on the ice and how to play.”

MORE CAPS: NHL Power Rankings

Fedorov, who played with Ovechkin in the 2010 Winter Olympics, finished his NHL career with 483 goals in 1,248 games over 18 seasons. He said he’s not surprised that Ovechkin has caught him after just 772 games over 11 seasons and believes there are hundreds of more goals left in Ovechkin’s sticks.

“He can score double that total in no time,” Fedorov told Puck Daddy. “And I wish him that.”

For a few brief moments Saturday night, Ovechkin experienced what it was like to be Russia’s leading goal scorer when he thought he scored his 484th goal and celebrated by taking his glove off and raising his index finger in the air. A few minutes later, the excitement of that moment was snuffed out when referee Brad Meier announced that a video review determined Justin Williams made contact with goaltender James Reimer, overturrning the on-ice ruling and taking the goal away from Ovechkin.

Maybe there was poetic justice in that decision because Ovechkin now can make history in the city that embraced Fedorov and the other members of the famed Russian Five – Igor Larionov, Vyacheslav Kozlov, Vladimir Konstantinov and Viacheslav Fetisov – two decades ago.      

“I respect what he did for Russian hockey and what he did for my career,” Ovechkin said.

Capitals coach Barry Trotz, who seems more interested in getting out of Detroit with two points, said he’s grown to understand what Ovechkin’s place in Russian hockey means to him.

“He’s very, very proud of the Russian culture,” Trotz said. “Some players are proud of their countries, but with Alex he’s proud about tradition and heritage, and family is really close to him. That’s really outstanding, He’s Americanized, if you will, but he’s not. He respects Russian traditions and that comes from his parents and his upbringing.”

As for his teammates, they are also anxious to see Ovechkin accomplish a personal goal none of them could ever reach.

“We’ve played together for a decade now and every day is fun coming to the rink to play with Alex,” Caps left wing Brooks Laich said. “Every day I get to ride alongside a guy who has a special ability. As far as I’m concerned, he’s probably the best pure goal scorer the game has ever seen. When he breaks that record I’m going to jump for joy for him because it’s going to be a very, very special moment.”

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Did the Capitals solve their depth scoring issues in Friday's loss?

Did the Capitals solve their depth scoring issues in Friday's loss?

Friday’s loss to the Florida Panthers was disappointing in a number of ways for the Capitals, but some good may yet come from it with the emergence of the third line.

A poor performance in the opening frame led to Todd Reirden switching up his lines to start the second. No change had a greater effect than the addition of Jakub Vrana to the third line in place of Andre Burakovsky to play with Lars Eller and Brett Connolly.

The move yielded instant results.

Connolly scored his first goal of the season less than two minutes into the period and added an assist. Vrana also recorded a goal and an assist, while Eller had a three-point night with three assists.

“It was just to make something happen,” Eller said, “Not that [Burakovsky] did something wrong, but just to make something happen and it worked. We kept riding the wave from there on and got two in that period. That seemed to work so that was positive.”

Vrana, Eller and Connolly were three players who had been playing well for the Caps, but were just not producing.

Heading into Friday’s game, Vrana and Eller both had only one point apiece on the season. Connolly had four, but three of those points came earlier in the season while he was skating on the team’s top line.

Friday was his first goal of the season.

“It’s good to get a goal,” Connolly said. “Getting some assists and all that and being a factor on some goals, but it’s nice to see one go in. I’ve had a lot of chances to start the year, thought I’ve been playing well. Lot more shots, lot more chances than I had last year and throughout the last two seasons per game. So I feel I’m ahead of the game right now in terms of that.”

Depth scoring has been a major weakness for the Caps so far in the early season. Washington had gotten only two bottom six goals prior to Friday’s game, and both came in the team’s blowout win over Boston in the opener.

They needed a spark to get offense from the bottom six, and they just may have found it on Friday with that third line combination.

Don’t be surprised to see that Vrana-Eller-Connolly trio stick together in Vancouver for the Caps’ next game against the Canucks.


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Capitals have been their own worst enemy, and they were again on Friday

Capitals have been their own worst enemy, and they were again on Friday

The Capitals managed to earn a point on Friday in a 6-5 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers, but the game felt like a missed opportunity for Washington. After giving up four goals in the first period, seven power plays including two 5-on-3s, and two power play goals, the Caps knew they had no one to blame but themselves for the loss.

“We were still not quite there maybe emotionally,” Lars Eller said.

At least not for the first period. The Caps allowed four goals in the opening 20 minutes to dig themselves into a 4-1 hole. Each goal came from the slot as the Caps had no control over the front of their own net.

“Just tough to start that way, to kind of dig ourselves a big hole,” Brett Connolly said. “Obviously, it’s good to come back and get a point but we don’t need to do that to ourselves. It takes a lot of energy to get back in that game.”

Washington battled back to tie the game at 4, but penalties ultimately derailed their momentum, allowing Florida to retake the lead.

After scoring three straight goals, the Caps took three minor penalties in the final three minutes of the second period.

Alex Ovechkin was called for interference on Aaron Ekblad as he made no attempt to play a loose puck that trickled past the Florida defenseman. He was clearly focused on delivering the hit and nothing else.

Less than a minute later, Eller was caught on the ice a tad early, and Washington was called for too many men.

“I see Backy coming for a change, they had full possession,” Eller said. “I don't see behind my back, I think the guys are telling me he has one skate over so I think it was an unnecessary call, but what am I going to say? It's a tough one.”

With 1:15 of a two-man advantage to work with, Jonathan Huberdeau scored the go-ahead goal late in the period.

Even after a furious comeback, the Caps could not escape the second with the score tied because of the penalties.

Just 43 seconds after Huberdeau’s goal, Washington went right back to 5-on-3. Evgeny Kuznetsov was tossed from a faceoff by the linesman and argued the call, eventually earning himself an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

“He said something he shouldn't have said to the referee,” Reirden said of the call.

The Caps' penalty problems were exacerbated by the continued problems of the penalty kill.

Heading into Friday's game, Washington was only killing off 72.2 percent of the power plays they faced. They allowed another two power play goals Friday as they continued to struggle when facing the extra man.

“We have room for improvement for sure,” Reirden said of his penalty kill. “It’s a new system, new with the way we’re killing, its new personnel. We’re learning. We’re missing a key guy in Tom on that as well. It’s not easy, either, when you’re 5-on-3 when they’ve got talented players that can convert in that spot. It’s definitely a work in progress and I didn't expect it to go smoothly to start with. That’s one of the areas that we knew was gonna be new to our team this year and it’s gonna continue to take some work. It’s something that definitely is a work in progress.”

Mistakes put the Caps down 4-1, they put them down 5-4, they cost them a valuable point against a previously winless Panthers team before a four-game road trip through Canada, and they are ultimately why the defending Stanley Cup champions are only 3-2-2 to start the season.

And they know it.

“We’re still trying to find our game,” Connolly said. “Would we have liked to have picked up where we left off? Yes. But it’s not easy. We played a lot of hockey last year and a short summer and you come in here and there’s a lot of distractions, a lot of that kind of stuff. We’ve done some good things and we’ve done some not so good things.

"I think if you look at last season we weren't very good either at the start. We weren't at our best. Just take the positives and know that we can overcome that. It hasn’t been disastrous. We’re still getting points, we’re still above .500 right now with a tough couple back-to-backs to start the year. So not the worst start, but obviously we have another level.”