By Glynn Cosker
DCPuckDrop Managing Editor
In a way, Alex Ovechkin is thumbing his nose at the naysayers who predicted that he – and the Washington Capitals – would have a lackluster 2017-18 NHL season without many of the club’s core players from last term. As if to say, ‘we’re still good without ’em,’ the Russian superstar scored four goals in the Capitals’ dismantling of a shell-shocked Montreal Canadiens outfit on Saturday night to give the Capitals’ captain seven goals in his first two games.
Goal of Wonder by Alex Ovechkin
The Capitals were on the board within 20 seconds when Ovechkin scored an early contender for goal of the season. Picking up the puck near the left faceoff circle, and with his back to the goal, he twirled around and rocketed a tumbling puck into the top-right corner in one, flowing continuous motion – before the Habs’ goalie Carey Price had a chance to react. Ovechkin added three more goals before the final horn to become the first player in 100 years to record a hat trick in consecutive games to begin an NHL season.
“My wife, her sister is here, and every time she’s in town I score a hat trick,” Ovechkin said after the game. “So back-to-back and she’s leaving Monday. I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to talk to someone to keep her here to go to Tampa maybe. But it’s a fun time when you play like that and your line is feeling it.”
Bad 3 Minutes for Carey Price
Arguably the best goaltender in the NHL, Price had a calamitous first few minutes of the game, but was surprisingly not pulled after the first three shots he faced resulted in three Washington goals. Perhaps, the Habs’ coaching staff didn’t want a repeat of Price’s tantrum when he was pulled during a game last season. Ovechkin’s first was followed in short order by T.J. Oshie – who slotted home with only 46 seconds of game time elapsed. Ovechkin then scored a power-play goal at the 2:51 mark to make it 3-0. Sticking with Price backfired when Ovechkin scored the Capitals’ fourth goal (on Price’s 14th shot faced) with 1:50 left in the first period. Price did not return for the second period.
Nathan Walker Makes History
The game was all but over with the Capitals leading 5-1 with a little under two minutes remaining when history was once again made in the Capital One Arena as the first ever Australian to play in the NHL made his debut as a Washington Capital. There are more ice rinks in Rhode Island than there are in the entire country of Australia – where rookie Nathan Walker hails from. With his parents and girlfriend in attendance, Walker was credited with the Caps’ sixth goal with 1:55 left in the contest after he deflected in a Devante Smith-Pelly wrister.
“I’m at a loss for words,” Walker told NHL.com. “That’s incredible. A really special moment, a proud moment.”
Holtby Wasn’t Upstaged
With all the history being made, Capitals’ netminder Braden Holtby wasn’t about to be upstaged. He pulled off a miraculous save at the beginning of the third period after John Carlson, Brooks Orpik and Evgeny Kuzentsoz collided and all fell to the ice – leaving the Canadiens’ Charles Hudon in open ice with the puck and creating a 2-on-0 with Artturi Lehkonen – to whom Hudon passed. Holtby slid to 100 percent full-stretch and prevented a goal.
If Ovechkin and his teammates keep providing performances like this one, the season may not look as daunting as it once appeared.