Alex Ovechkin called his one-timer a “muffin” because he whiffed a bit on the shot.
But a goal is a goal is a goal. Especially when you’re the NHL’s four-time defending goal scoring champ and you’re mired in the longest drought of your career.
“It was kind of [a] not perfect shot,” Ovechkin cracked of his second period strike in Tuesday’s 4-2 win over the Wild, “but sometimes I have pretty good opportunities before and it didn’t go in.”
The goal was Ovechkin’s first of any kind in 11 games. It also came as a Minnesota penalty expired, so it marked his first 5-on-5 goal since Jan. 26, a span of 21 contests.
Ovechkin acknowledged that he was relieved to see the puck settle into the net behind Devan Dubnyk. But he also reiterated that he’s been focused on the team’s recent performance, not his goal totals.
“Yeah,” he said, asked if it felt like a weight had been lifted. “But obviously right now we in a position where we was losing four in a row. I kind of feel like you don’t have to worry about your personal stats. …[Tonight] was pretty good challenge and we did right things and we win the game. Everybody was connected. Everybody was on the same page.”
Everybody was indeed dialed in. But Ovechkin’s focus, energy and execution were especially noticeable.
In addition to scoring, No. 8 earned a primary assist on Nate Schmidt’s goal, drew the penalty that led to Evgeny Kuznetsov’s power play tally, drew a another penalty and logged a game-high four hits.
It was vintage Ovi. And it couldn’t have come at a better time for the previously scuffling Caps.
“A lot is made of him not scoring the last little while, but I’ll tell you what: he’s playing pretty good hockey,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “He’s become a force again. And when he’s becoming a force, then you know those goals are going to come.”
Trotz also went out of his way to praise how Ovechkin has handled the slump. In years past, he may have brooded a bit. Or worse, he may have shirked his defensive responsibilities. None of that, however, has happened.
“He’s doing a lot of good things right now; I don’t think he needs to change anything,” Trotz said. “He’s got to get a couple to find the back of the net and then you’ll see, he might get 20 in the next 10 games.”
“He’s playing good hockey,” Trotz continued. “Unfortunately, we’re taking a lot of penalties and it does cut into the rhythm. But I like that he’s staying positive and playing really well. Because a lot of time when you’re not scoring—especially a goal scorer—you start to cheat. He’s not and I have a lot of respect for that. He’s maintaining a real even keel and working his butt off.”
MORE CAPITALS: Caps go wild on Minnesota to end losing skid