He said what?
Minutes after his team’s last-second win over the Rangers in Game 1, Capitals coach Barry Trotz took a calculated shot at Blueshirts fans in his postgame press conference by comparing Alex Ovechkin to Rangers legend and Hall of Famer Mark Messier.
“He’s a rare talent in this league. I said to the media, ‘he’s really similar to Mark Messier,’ ” Trotz said. “He’s one of those rare talents that can play a really heavy game, intimidate you with his speed, intimidate you with his skill and his physicality. That’s a pretty rare talent. Ovi has been terrific for us as an all around player this year. . . . You have to give Ovi all the credit.”
Ovechkin, a three-time MVP and a Hart Trophy finalist again this year with a league-leading 53 goals, is one of the best players on the planet. But he has a long way to go to reach Messier’s rarefied air. Messier ranks second all-time in career points (1,887), third in assists (1,193) and eighth in goals (694) and also won six Stanley Cups, the last of them with the Rangers in 1994.
Messier might be a reach, but with a goal and the assist on the game-winning goal with 1.3 seconds left, Ovechkin certainly earned his praise Thursday night. The Great 8 opened the scoring with a highlight-reel, power-play goal with 1:47 to play in the first period. Ovechkin carried the puck into the offensive zone on the rush and fired a wrister just above the left circle. The perfectly placed shot beat Henrik Lundqvist high short side through a Dan Boyle screen and ricocheted so fast out of the net, it was momentarily unclear if it had actually gone in.
“That goal he scored is an all-world goal with that speed, the release through the defenseman and to pick that corner,” Caps forward Brooks Laich said. “I’ve played with Alex a long time and I should be more wowed by what he does sometimes, but I’ve seen him score a lot of goals like that. Just a tremendous talent, a game breaking talent.”
Ovechkin also set up the last-second backbreaker for the Rangers with spectacular no-look pass from behind the net to Joel Ward in front. Ward stuffed the puck through Lundqvist with 1.3 seconds to play and put the Washington up 1-0 in the series.
“We played till the end, till the whistle blew, till the horn,” Ovechkin said, referring to some Rangers saying they stopped, thinking there would be a penalty. “I heard Wardo screaming so hard and I just wanted to throw the puck and I got lucky. It was kind of a hard angle, but sometimes luck gets stuck on our side.”
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