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|10 апреля 2013 года.
New, improved Ovechkin doesn't disappoint // The Globe and Mail
Capitals star having fun, settling in nicely with new coach's directives
The statement of intent came on the game's second shift, when big No.8 in white trundled into the corner to smash Montreal Canadiens defenceman Josh Gorges into the boards.
Alex Ovechkin had arrived.
And not the ersatz, dollar-store Ovechkin of the past couple of years, the one who has risen up to grab a share of the NHL's goal-scoring lead in the span of 15 games - he scored his 26th of the year and 17th in 15 games to key a 3-2 win over the Canadiens on Tuesday.
It has taken time for first-year head coach Adam Oates to sell Ovechkin on the merits of a weighty decision - moving him to right wing after eight years spent on the left side - but it can't be plausibly argued the forward is a poor student, at least not according to his coach.
"He's been a sponge," Oates said before Tuesday's tilt with the Montreal Canadiens.
The idea, Oates said, is to get Ovechkin more involved in the play and have him exchange the puck with his teammates in the neutral zone more often.
"It was kind of hard, I watched the video, there were lots of meetings with Oatesy, again sometimes you have to do it to get success for the team and for yourself," Ovechkin said earlier in the day, citing the rapport he shares with Oates - and presumably didn't with former bench boss Dale Hunter.
"I have a good relationship with Oatesy. I feel trust. I just want to go out there and play hockey. I was missing that kind of time last year. It's a fun time back," he said.
Though Oates didn't expand on the rationale for moving Ovechkin over, it surely has to do with him being able to work on the forehand more often.
It was evident from the off that the Caps are a different team from the squad the Habs beat 4-1 a couple of months ago.
After withstanding an early barrage - each of the Caps' four lines generated scoring chances in the opening five minutes - the Habs took a 1-0 first-period lead through Lars Eller, the result of a sweet spot of stickhandling from rookie Alex Galchenyuk and a heady pass from Brandon Prust.
At the 7:40 mark of the second, the home side got to see the new Ovechkin up close.
The big winger delayed his entry into the Montreal zone and gathered a feed from defenceman John Carlson just inside the blueline on the right side.
Then, he demonstrated that while his positional assignments are new, old habits sometimes die hard.
As Montreal's Michael Ryder stepped up to deny the middle of the ice, Ovechkin broke sharply to his left.
The 27-year-old didn't become one of the league's most-feared snipers by shying away from risks, but Ryder was nonetheless surprised when Ovechkin slipped the puck between his feet and set sail for open space on the left side, his old stomping ground.
Habs goaltender Carey Price was similarly fooled by Ovechkin's quick wrister - although winger Marcus Johansson was on hand to provide a distraction.
Ovechkin scooted directly to the corner and leapt shoulder-first into the glass as a child in a Habs shirt stood open-mouthed.
Just 1:46 later, Price was fooled by a shot that bounced high off his blocker and fell lazily into the net after kissing off defenceman Andrei Markov's stick.
Eric Fehr was credited with the goal, the Caps were back in the saddle after a surviving a furious Montreal surge for the better part of a period.
In the third, Ovechkin once again made his presence felt, rampaging down the right side boards to beat Gorges to a puck and allowing Johansson - a point-a-game player since taking over the slot on centre Nicklas Backstrom's left - to cycle the puck to defenceman Jack Hillen.
Ovechkin took up a station in front of Price, and provided all the screen that Hillen needed to fire the insurance marker into the far corner.
Eller added his second with just over three minutes to play, tipping rookie Nathan Beaulieu's shot past Michal Neuvirth (Galchenyuk earned his second point of the night).
There would be more nervy moments when Ovechkin missed an empty net in the final minute and in so doing iced the puck.
But there would be no comeback.
The Caps' win streak is now at five games - the Habs' was snapped at two - there's no predicting when it will end if Ovechkin continues to play like this.